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Moylan seeks US territories' exclusion from federal ban on cockfighting

Former territorial vet says delegate's bill an ‘embarrassment to Guam’

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Guam Del. James Moylan today proposed the U.S. territories' exemption from the four-year-old federal ban on cockfighting in the U.S.

“The issue is more than just about cockfighting; the issue is about sending a message to the federal government that you just can’t come in blindly and ban a centuries-old tradition in a U.S. territory without providing its community the opportunity to share their thoughts,” Moylan said.

According to a press release from the office of the Guam delegate, the proposed legislation titled, “Senator Jose ‘Pedo’ Terlaje HITA (Honoring Indigenous Traditions and Attributes) Act” would simply reverse the ban enacted in 2018 through an amendment in the Farm Bill that went into effect in December 2019.

“We felt it was only appropriate to name this measure after the late Sen. Pedo Terlaje. Pedo was not only a friend and a colleague, but he was an advocate for cultural preservation and a fighter to ensure that cockfighting practices remained legal,” Moylan said.

Terlaje, who passed away in January, authored the language in the government of Guam’s 2020 budget law, which ensured that the enforcement of the federal statute would be the least priority of local law enforcement agencies.


“Since the enactment of the federal ban, he, just like many others in our community, waited for some action on the repeal of that law, but for four years, none were brought to the table,” Moylan said.

“We look forward to garnering the support of local organizations as well as the local government, as this is our opportunity to correct a wrong and to continue Pedo’s fight," he added.

Last year, a federal court dismissed a CNMI resident's lawsuit that sought to exclude the Northern Mariana Islands from the cockfighting ban.

In dismissing the case, Chief U.S. District Judge Ramona Manglona determined that “the federal interests in regulating interstate commerce, preventing the spread of avian flu, and ensuring the humane treatment of animals outweigh the degree of intrusion into the internal affairs of the CNMI as it relates to the tradition of cockfighting.”

Similar challenges in Puerto Rico were also rejected by federal courts.


Moylan said the HITA Act “sends a message that we need to reset that clock and give the people of Guam and other territories the opportunity to express their support of maintaining such historical significances.”

The Animal Wellness Action, a national animal rights group, opposed Moylan’s proposal, noting that the Farm Bill amendment was approved nearly without any dissent in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate,

“Delegate Moylan has made a political and policy misjudgment in seeking to restore legal knife fights between animals on our beautiful island,” said Dr. Thomas Pool, senior veterinarian for Animal Wellness Action and the territorial veterinarian for Guam for 17 years.

“This pro-cockfighting bill is an embarrassment to Guam. Cockfighting is barbarism, closely tied to gambling crimes, narcotics trafficking, and other lawless behaviors.”


AWA said even prior to the full implementation of the Farm Bill amendment, it had already been illegal for years to ship fighting birds to Guam, to possess animals for fighting, or to be a spectator at an animal fighting venture.

“I hope Delegate Moylan’s cockfighting followers understand that his legislation has zero chance of moving an inch in the Congress,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action.

“In fact, Congress is expected to pass legislation to address cockfighting, but that legislation will toughen the law against animal fighting and allow private citizens to bring civil actions against people breaking our anti-cruelty laws. Cockfighters and dogfighters will now face even more legal jeopardy," he added.

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