By Alex Rhowuniong
If you are planning on attending the “grand opening” at the Dededo Game Club on New Year’s Day, you might want to reconsider.
In a recent press conference, Wayne Pacelle, president of the nonprofit organization Animal Wellness Action that “helps animals by promoting legal standards forbidding cruelty,” announced that AWA and the federal authorities will be monitoring the club on Jan. 1 for illegal cockfighting activity.
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In a letter to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero dated Dec. 22, Pacelle wrote that “the fights set for the Dededo Game Club take lawbreaking to a high audacious level.”
“We just want people to stop. It’s illegal,” he said. “It’s animal cruelty. It’s outlawed at the federal level. It’s outlawed in 50 states, and you lost the debate. Observe the law.”
“They are disregarding and disrespecting the norms and the laws,” he said. “The organizers of these planned cockfights are engaged in a criminal conspiracy to violate U.S. law.”
“Not only are they thumbing their noses,” said Eric Sakach, a retired senior law enforcement specialist at The Humane Society of the United States, “but they are essentially giving the middle finger to the law.”
In the same letter to the governor, Pacelle asked that she speak out against the event. “We ask you to speak out publicly against this criminal conspiracy, call on the organizers to scuttle the plans, and announce that law enforcement personnel be present to maintain peace and discourage any illegal acts of animal cruelty.”
He also called on all political leaders and federal authorities to take seriously their oath to the Constitution, and enforce the law. “The governor (and) the senators have a duty to enforce federal law,” he said.
According to Part I, Chapter XIII of the FY 2020 budget law, “Enforcement of the federal ban on cockfighting as enacted by the 2018 Farm bill (U.S. Public Law 115-334) shall be the lowest priority of the government of Guam.”
Mike San Nicolas, Guam’s delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives and a co-sponsor of a House bill to reverse the ban, told local authorities that the federal ban “supersedes and invalidates” all other existing local laws and statutes. Therefore, on Dec. 20, 2021, any of “Guam laws that legalize, regulate and tax cockfighting will be void,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution prohibits any past or future legislation the Guam Legislature enacted regarding the issuance or maintenance of licenses for cockfighting in Guam,” said San Nicolas.
But San Nicolas said he would try to get the U.S. territories cockfighting exemption through another bill.
Talk like this from local leaders and influencers just creates more confusion, Pacelle said. There is the risk of imprisonment for five years and a fine of $250,000 for anyone who does not comply with the ban. There is also the threat of one year in prison and a $5,000 fine for anyone who attends cockfights.
“We’ve had more robust criminal enforcement of the animal fighting statutes than we have ever had,” said Pacelle, including the FBI, Homeland Security, the US Postal Service, the U.S. Attorney General’s office, the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Marshals Service.
“We will be monitoring everything that goes on at the dome” during the three-cock derby that will continue through the month of January four days a week, Pacelle said.
“I don’t think that any of this, if it does occur, is going escape our gaze. I urge the media to be present. And I urge other citizens to be present to make sure that we are showing that felony-level and criminal conspiracies don’t occur,” he said.