- By Gina T. Reilly
Investigators to monitor underground cockfights
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JQS pit in Dededo held its last cockfight on Dec. 19 2019, on the even of the implementation of the federal cockfight ban. Photo by Jan Furukawa
Cockpits on Guam officially shut down on Dec. 20 after holding their last legal cockfights the night before ban takes effect.
The Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF) and Animal Wellness Action (AWA) urge cockfighters to obey the law, advising cockfighters that investigators will be on the ground to document illegal cockfighting.
“We know that feelings run deep in the cockfighting community about their sport,” said Wayne Pacelle, founder of AWA. “But let’s be clear: continuing to engage in staged fighting is dangerous because the federal felony-level penalties are so severe.”
AWF and AWA noted that Congress gave Guam and other territories one year to wind down this practice "and that day has come."
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture said there is no rush for game fowl owners to dispose of their roosters.
“We have received inquiries from owners of fighting roosters about the fates of their birds. There is nothing unlawful about owning brood fowl or poultry previously used in cockfighting,” the department said in a statement.
Agriculture officials also received questions as to the best method of disposal of the medications previously used for the fighting cocks.
“The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services is responsible for the licensing of controlled drugs, but they do not have the resources for the disposal of drugs,” agriculture officials said.
However, the department added, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has a "Take Back" program that accepts legally obtained pharmaceuticals and Schedule II-V controlled drugs.
The DEA office in Hagåtña announces those collection days in April and October, or the drugs can be turned in year-round during normal business hours at the U.S. Naval Hospital Pharmacy in Agana Heights.
Under the federal anti-animal fighting law, it is a crime to:
Knowingly sponsor or exhibit in an animal fighting venture;
Knowingly attend an animal fighting venture, or knowingly cause an individual who has not attained the age of 16 to attend an animal fighting venture;
Knowingly buy, sell, possess, train, transport, deliver, or receive any animal for purposes of having the animal participate in an animal fighting venture;
Knowingly use the mail service of the U.S. Postal Service, or any “written, wire, radio televisions or other form of communications in, or use a facility of, interstate commerce,” to advertise an animal for use in an animal fighting venture, or to advertise a knife, gaff, or other sharp instrument designed to be attached to the leg of a bird for us in an animal fighting venture, or to promote or in any other manner further an animal fighting venture except as performed outside the U.S.;
Knowingly sell, buy, transport, or deliver in interstate or foreign commerce “a knife, a gaff, or any other sharp instrument” designed or intended to be attached to the leg of a bird for us in an animal fighting venture.
The owner of “The Dome” in Dededo has said that fighting will cease there. The governor has said villages should not apply for permission to host cockfights at the festival. She has also said, even though she opposes the federal fighting prohibition, that cockfighters should observe the law.
The Guam Cockfighting Licensing Board has disbanded. This week, a District Court Magistrate Judge on Guam recommended denying a motion for preliminary injunction filed by a local cockfighting enthusiast seeking to enjoin enforcement of the law. That comes two months after a U.S. District Court Judge in Puerto Rico rejected similar legal maneuvers by cockfighting clubs in that U.S. territory.
AWA and AWF have obtained hundreds of shipping records from the Guam Department of Agriculture that reveal shipments of birds to the island from known cockfighting operators in the states to Guamanians.
“All of this – the shipments of fighting birds into Guam, the shipment of fighting birds from Guam to other territories and countries, the staged fights at established arenas, the backyard fights, the raising of fighting animals – must end as both a legal and moral imperative,” Pacelle said. “The overwhelming majority of people on Guam and the United States Government oppose staged fights between animals."
Recently, AWA and AWF announced a rewards program to run for an indefinite time that provides a $2,500 reward for any individual who provides critical information that results in a successful federal prosecution of an individual or set of individuals who violate the federal law against animal fighting). The rewards program is mentioned on the new campaign website, www.endcockfighting.org, which will serve as a comprehensive resource about the issue and call citizens to action to help.
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