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Cockfighting:  Expanded Federal Law Would Halt USPS Transport of Animals for Fighting

ANIMAL WATCH - A new anti-animal fighting Bill introduced in Congress on November 16  would add “potent enforcement tools” for both law-enforcement agencies and private citizens to address rampant cockfighting and dog-fighting operations worldwide and expanding in U.S. communities, a media release by Animal Wellness Action (AWA) announced this week.

The Washington, D.C.-based animal-advocacy organization has been gathering information through shipping records that prove the transport of thousands of roosters from the United States to Guam (a U.S. territory) each year by the United States Postal Service (USPS).

It announced that it has assisted federal lawmakers in introducing the Animal Fighting Amendment of 2022 to cut off “the pathways for transporting fighting animals.”

COCKFIGHTING ILLEGAL IN ALL U.S. STATES AND TERRITORIES

The Animal Fighting ban signed by former President Trump in 2018, made animal fighting illegal in U.S. territories also; whereas, prior to that, the law had applied only to the 50 states.

This act has faced and won all legal challenges:

Judge Dismisses Challenge To Cockfighting Ban In U.S. Territories

The latest challenge filed in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands against the ban on cockfighting in U.S. territories was dismissed on November 17, 2022, by U.S. District Judge Ramona Manglona who ruled  that “the cultural practice of cockfighting in the territory doesn't outweigh federal interests.”

The challenge had been brought by Saipan resident, Andrew Sablan Salas, who previously served in the Commonwealth’s Legislature and as Secretary of Commerce in the territory, and who cited in the court document that he has ”been involved in cockfighting since childhood.”

The lawsuit claimed that the ban intrudes on the internal affairs of the territory by criminalizing a “popular and traditional recreational activity, and by imposing a moral and cultural standard that has not prevailed there through local democratic process.”

A similar challenge was dismissed in Guam in 2019, when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a lawsuit by Guam businessman Sedfrey Linsangan, who contended that the ban was unconsititutional and that “gamefowl raising and competition is part of his culture, custom and tradition.”

Humane advocates contend that it is time to stop allowing this barbaric gambling enterprise which prospers from the combat and death of innocent animals to masquerade as a traditional “sport” or acceptable entertainment.

Cockfighters should "stop hacking up animals for illegal gambling and the thrill of watching the bloodletting,” stated Wayne Pacelle of Animal Wellness Action.

 

AWA HAS U.S.P.S. SHIPPING RECORDS

 

Data obtained by Animal Wellness Action from the Guam Department of Agriculture (GDA) revealed a total of 2,138 fighting animals transported to Guam in 2021, despite the imposition of a federal ban on cockfighting imposed in December 2019. 

“In the first two months of this year, Guam officials granted import permits for dozens of birds to John and Brenda Bottoms and Bill McNatt of southeast Oklahoma. These individuals are not legitimate agricultural producers; they are known cockfighters,” AWA stated in an earlier report. 

 Over the last five years, Animal Wellness Action has documented 11,516 fighting birds admitted entry to Guam through permits granted by the GDA.”

There “is simply no other rationale for the shipment of very expensive adult roosters to our island but for cockfighting,” wrote Dr. Thomas Poole, who was a Colonel in the U.S. Army and ran its U.S. Veterinary Command. “We know that the people on both ends of these transactions have been involved in the criminal practice of cockfighting.”

“Guam’s political leaders — the director of the Department of Agriculture and the governor — have repeatedly given the nod for this live-animal contraband to persist,” AWA asserts.  

“As evidence of additional public corruption, we even managed to obtain, from an informant, videos of a Guam Department of Agriculture employee fighting birds at a pit on the island.” 

Animal Wellness Awareness has brought to light the fact that, according to an informant who provided U.S.P.S. shipping records (from – to) indicates that   (how many) have been shipped to Guam in one year, from to ===>by USPS.

Is USPS blatantly violating the Animal Welfare Code?

No, a cockfighter in Great Britan described that the birds are shipped under the classification of “show birds.”

However, last week U.S. lawmakers released a bill to prohibit any shipping of live roosters through the U.S. Mail.

USPS CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE 

AWA figures verify irrefutably that the U.S. Postal Service is enabling cockfighting because of its current mailing code provisions. This is not an intentional act.  However, it points out a vital change is needed. 

Fighting cocks are not mailed as day-old poultry   

Aggressive behavior in males starts or may be tested at 4-6 months of age when cockerels have reached some level of maturity and testosterone levels rise.  

Fighting roosters are not mailed until they have proven they are “game.” This means the bird can be “tested” by the breeder so that the buyer can be guaranteed it will fight to kill. Not every offspring of champion birds inherits this genetic trait to the level of being worth the cost of purchase and shipment. 

It is legal to mail live animals by USPS (Publication 52—Animals> 526 Mailable Live Animals  Adult Birds)

Here are the rules: 

Adult birds are mailable only when sent under the following conditions:

  • The shipment is mailed using Priority Mail Express service.
  • Each bird must weigh more than 6 ounces and no more than 25 pounds.
  • The number of birds per parcel must follow the container manufacturer limits. 

However, Publication 52, Section 462> Mailability, prohibits mailing any “live animal for the purpose of participating in an animal-fighting venture.” 

(NOTE: The U.S. Postal Service states that it does not ship dogs.) 

DOG FIGHTING ALSO FACES CRACK-DOWN 

The November 16, 2022,  AWA media release also states: 

This alerts lawmakers and the public to the fact that, “In addition to staging fights in (the) US, animal fighters are raising and shipping tens of thousands of fighting animals to other nations throughout the world.” 

The proposed amendments to Section 26 of the Animal Welfare Act would fortify an already strong federal law and enhancement enforcement of the law by: 

  • Banning simulcasting and gambling on animal fights in the United States, no matter where the fights and broadcasts originate
  • Halting the shipment of mature roosters shipped through the U.S. mail
  • Creating a citizen-suit provision to allow private right of action against illegal animal fighters and ease the resource burden on federal agencies, and 
  • Enhancing forfeiture provisions to include real property used in the commission of an animal-fighting crime                                                                      

ADDED ENFORCEMENT TOOL

 

“A separate bill, the Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act, would create an Animal Cruelty Crimes section at the Department of Justice and allow for more resources to coordinate and execute strategies against illegal animal fighting.”

“For too long, dogfighters and cockfighters have carried on their rampant abuses with too many enforcement loopholes and not enough tools to end the abuses,” said Rep. Cindy Axne, D-IA. 

While federal law enforcement would still drive enforcement actions against cockfighting, this legislation, by authorizing citizen suits, would provide new levers to initiate civil proceedings, drawing attention to the cockfighting operators openly conducting their barbaric and illegal activities. 

“Tens of thousands of cockfighters and dogfighters operate in the United States, gathering at hundreds of fighting pits and stadiums, placing the animals born and bred for combat in fighting pits, and then watching them kill each other so they can make wagers and revel in the bloodletting,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. 

“Most people treat this is as a settled moral issue, but animal fighting remains an animal-welfare crisis of epic proportions”

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(Phyllis M. Daugherty is an animal activist, contributor to CityWatch and a former Los Angeles City employee.)