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Cockfighting is an age-old blood sport where roosters, also known as gamecocks, are made to fight inside a pit. Small knives, also called gaffs, are attached to the birds’ legs in order for them to injure each or kill each other.
Primarily seen as a form of entertainment and a hub for gambling, the legality of cockfighting varies around the world. In this article, we’ll be discussing the legal status of cockfighting in the United States.
Are Cockfights Illegal?
Cockfighting is illegal in numerous countries around the world. In the United States, cockfighting is illegal in every state, including the District of Columbia. Cockfighting is also illegal in the territories of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands.
While there are regions in the world where cockfight events are illegal, there are also countries where it is legal.
Is Rooster Fighting A Felony?
Cockfighting is a felony offense in over 40 states as well as the District of Columbia. Additionally, possessing birds for fighting purposes is prohibited in the District of Columbia and 39 states. Being a spectator at a cockfight is also a crime in 43 states and the District of Columbia.
Do People Still Do Cockfighting?
People still do rooster fights, especially in countries where it is legal. Some examples of countries where cock fighting is legal and remains a popular sport include the Philippines, Mexico, Peru, and Cuba. While rooster fights are prohibited in the United States, illegal cockfighting rings exist.
What States Allow Cock Fights?
There are no U.S. states where cockfighting is legal. Before the 2018 Farm Bill, also known as the Agriculture Improvement Act, territories of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, North Marianas Islands, and the Virgin Islands kept cockfighting legal. The US territories are now covered by federal law banning cockfighting. Residents of these territories have repeatedly tried to challenge the legislation but have failed so far.
Where Is Cockfighting Most Popular?
The country where cockfighting seems to be the most popular is the Philippines. It is a billion-dollar industry in the country. Both licensed cockfight arenas and illegal cockpits exist, and gambling in matches is legal as well.
Additionally, bird handlers and breeders from all over the world travel to the Philippines to sell their game cocks as it has become a lucrative business. International fighting cock derbies and tournaments are also usually held in the Philippines.
Where Does Cockfighting Happen?
Cockfight events are usually held in a cockfighting ring or a cockpit. There are no licensed or legal animal fighting rings in the U.S.
Legality of Cockfighting in the United States
Here is a full list of all 50 states and their respective cockfighting laws. Some of the states also have information on the criminal charges and penalties associated with breaking any laws against animal fighting.
Is It Illegal to Host Cock Fight Events in Alabama?
In Alabama, it is not outlawed to possess, sell, or raise gamecocks. Cockfighting, however, is a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of USD 50.
Under the Penal Code 11.61.145, rooster fighting is a felony. The possession of gamecocks is also a felony while attending events is a misdemeanor. The possession of implements is allowed.
Cockfighting is a class 5 felony in Arizona. Owning implements, however, is authorized.
In Arkansas, rooster matches are a felony. The possession of game birds is also a felony while being a spectator is a misdemeanor. Owning instruments for bouts is allowed.
Is Cockfighting Illegal in California?
Yes, it is outlawed in California. The state recently passed amendments to the existing legislation that significantly increased penalties for engaging in, sponsoring, and watching cockfights, as well as selling cockfighting implements.
Allowing rooster fight events and being a spectator are misdemeanor offenses punishable by imprisonment or fines. Courts in California also have the option to decide whether subsequent offenses are felonies and, if charged as a felony, it is punishable in state prison for up to three years.
Anyone caught cockfighting, owning roosters, attending events, or owning implements can face felony charges in Colorado.
Cockfights, the possession of gamecocks, and attending matches are a felony in Connecticut. However, the possession of implements is legal.
Cockfight events, possession of game birds, and attending matches are a felony in Delaware. The possession of implements is legal.
Are Rooster Fights Legal in Florida?
Cockfighting, the possession of roosters, attending events, and the possession of implements are all felony offenses in Florida.
In Georgia, cockfighting is banned under the state’s animal cruelty legislation. It is legal to possess gamecocks and implements, as well as to attend matches.
Holding fights is a misdemeanor in Hawaii and anyone convicted may face a maximum sentence of a year in jail, as well as pay up to USD 2,000 in fines. It is legal to possess cocks, attend matches, and possess implements.
In Idaho, cockfighting is a felony. However, it is legal to possess gamecocks, attend matches, and possess implements.
Cock fight activities are a felony in Illinois. Owning gamecocks and being present in matches is also a felony, while the possession of implements is legal.
In Indiana, cock fight events and owning gamecocks are a felony. Meanwhile, being present in matches and owning implements is a misdemeanor.
Cockfighting, owning gamefowls, attending events, and owning implements all have felony charges in Iowa.
Making roosters duel is a felony in Kansas. Owning implements and attending events both have misdemeanor charges, while owning gamecocks is fully authorized.
In Kentucky, cockfighting and being present in matches both have corresponding misdemeanor charges. Despite that, owning gamecocks and owning implements are both legal in the state.
Louisiana was the last state to ban cockfighting. In the state, matches and possessing cocks are a felony while attending events is a misdemeanor. Possessing implements is authorized.
Cockfighting and the ownership of gamecocks are a felony in Maine. It is a misdemeanor to attend matches, while the possession of implements is legal.
Any individual found to own gamecocks and allowing them to duel can face felony charges in Maryland. Owning implements is also a felony while attending events is a misdemeanor.
Rooster matches, owning gamefowls, and spectating all have felony charges in Massachusetts. The ownership of implements is allowed.
All activities related to rooster dueling have corresponding felony charges in Michigan.
Owning gamecocks and letting them duel have felony charges in Minnesota. Spectating and owning implements are misdemeanor offenses in the state.
In Mississippi, cockfighting is a misdemeanor. The possession of birds is also a misdemeanor. On the other hand, being a spectator and possessing instruments are all allowed. In recent years, new laws are being proposed to outlaw the shipping of birds from Mississippi across state lines.
Gamefowl duels are a felony in Missouri. Attending events and owning implements have misdemeanor charges. Owning cocks, however, is legal.
In Montana, owning gamecocks and using them to duel have corresponding felony charges. Attending events and owning implements both have misdemeanor charges.
It is a felony to own gamefowls, use them for matches, and attend events in Nebraska. Owning implements, on the other hand, is a misdemeanor.
Are Cockfight Events Against the Law in Nevada?
Yes, they are outlawed. Nevada was the most recent state to make dueling roosters a felony. Punishments include up to six years in prison, depending on the case.
All activities related to gamecock matches are a felony in New Hampshire.
Similar to New Hampshire, all activities related to gamecock matches are a felony in New Jersey.
New Mexico was the 49th state to ban cockfighting, with felony charges awaiting anyone who may be indicted. Despite the ban, New Mexico is known as a hub for illegal cockfight events.
Gamefowl duels are a felony in New York while owning gamecocks, spectating, and having implements are a misdemeanor.
Owning gamefowls as well as owning implements are legal in North Carolina. Despite that, holding matches and spectating are both a felony.
Purposely allowing gamecocks to duel and owning one is a felony in North Dakota. Misdemeanor charges face individuals who are prosecuted for attending events. Owning implements is legal.
The act of making fowls duel is a felony in Ohio. Owning gamecocks, attending events, and owning implements all have misdemeanor charges in the state.
Dueling gamecocks, owning one, and owning implements all have corresponding felony charges. Attending matches is a misdemeanor charge in Oklahoma.
In Oregon, all activities involving rooster matches are a felony.
In Pennsylvania, owning gamefowls, holding matches, and attending them are all considered a felony. The possession of implements is a misdemeanor offense.
The possession of implements is legal in Rhode Island but the act of dueling gamefowls, owning cocks, and attending matches have felony charges.
In this state, gamefowl matches as well as attending events is a misdemeanor. Owning gamefowls and implements are both legal.
Owning gamecocks and making them duel each other have felony charges in South Dakota. It is a misdemeanor to attend matches. However, owning implements is allowed.
All activities related to rooster dueling are a misdemeanor in Tennessee.
Are Rooster Fight Events Legal in Texas?
Under the Texas Penal Code 42. 105, it is a felony to host matches and anyone prosecuted is subject to confinement in a state jail for not more than two years and not less than 180 days. On the other hand, owning or training a fighting bird and manufacturing, buying, selling, or trading implements are misdemeanor offenses.
In Utah, it is a felony to hold cock duels. Owning gamecocks and implements is legal while participating as an audience in matches is a misdemeanor.
All activities related to gamefowl combats have felony charges in Vermont.
Similar to Vermont, in Virginia, all activities related to gamefowl combats have felony charges.
In Washington, owning gamefowls, holding and attending matches, and owning implements is a felony.
Rooster matches and owning gamecocks are a misdemeanor in West Virginia. Being present at events is a misdemeanor while owning implements is authorized.
Owning gamecocks and allowing them to duel to the death have felony charges in Wisconsin. Being present in matches is a misdemeanor while owning implements is allowed.
It is a felony to host rooster duels, as well as to own gamecocks, in Wyoming. Attending matches is a misdemeanor offense. Owning implements is legal, however.
Cockfighting as a Federal Crime in the United States
There are two federal laws concerning cockfighting. They are:
Animal Welfare Act
The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) recognized animal fighting as a federal crime. Later, it was amended by the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, making the offense of animal fighting a felony charge, alongside criminal charges associated with attending matches, or selling, buying, transporting, or delivering implements to be used for cockfighting. The penalties for the offenses have increased, namely:
- Up to one-year imprisonment for attending
- Up to three years imprisonment for bringing a child under 16 years of age to a match
- Five years imprisonment for offenses involving the commerce of instruments used in cockfighting
Agriculture Improvement Act
Also known as the 2018 Farm Bill, this law increased the priority of enforcing and prosecuting animal fighting charges. This act also created steps and a referral system for the FBI, the Department of Agriculture, and other investigative agencies to utilize. The 2018 Farm Bill prohibition on cockfight matches also extends to US territories.
The Humane Society of the United State Against Animal Fighting
The Humane Society of the United States is one of the biggest organizations in the country that aims to tear down any form of abuse against animals. The organization deems cockfighting as a form of animal cruelty, citing how roosters suffer from being bred, injected with drugs, isolated from other animals, and are made to fight to the death. The Humane Society also works hand-in-hand with law enforcement to combat any form of animal cruelty.
Cockfighting is a death sport that involves roosters dueling inside a pit. This sport is outlawed in all 50 states and in the U.S. territories as well. Depending on the state, violators can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony offense.