Announcement Comes After Solid Evidence Emerges of Illegal Fighting and Mass Transports of Fighting Animals to the Island
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Animal Wellness Action (AWA) and the Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF) have renewed their offer of a $5,000 reward to any individual providing information leading to the federal prosecution and conviction of any individual involved in illegal trafficking of fighting animals to Guam or cockfighting itself on the island. It is a federal felony to participate in animal fighting ventures and related activities.
Individuals can provide tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. AWA and AWF are already providing information on illegal fighting activities to the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal authorities and will provide confidential information to these authorities if credible information is obtained in the coming days.
“Federal agencies and officers have a duty to enforce our laws against the barbaric practice of cockfighting,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “But their good works depend on the cooperation and participation of citizens to make our communities safer for people and for animals. We ask people who know about illegal cockfighting to help us root it out and end this knowing disregard for our nation’s anti-cruelty laws.”
AWA and AWF have received reports of major fights staged on Guam, including at the fighting arena in Dededo known as “The Dome.” This is no surprise given a surge in transports of fighting animals to Guam that pass through its Department of Agriculture. AWA and AWF recently reported shipping records from the Department reveal an increase in illegal shipments of fighting birds of 600 percent – from 396 animals for all of 2020 to 1,340 for the first six months of the year. Cockfighters are on pace to approach the shipment of nearly 3,000 fighting roosters if this year’s pace of shipments continues.
The two top shippers of fighting roosters to Guam in the first half of 2021 – Bill McNatt (750 birds) and John Bottoms (181) — account for two-thirds of animal shipments approved by the Guam Department of Agriculture. They hail from Oklahoma and evidence supports the notion that they have long been deeply immersed in the business of cockfighting. Of the 10,000 fighting birds shipped to Guam through the Department of Agriculture over the last four years, Bottoms has sold nearly 2,000 of them (one-fifth), while McNatt has traded more than 1,000 birds. Animal Wellness Action has uncovered that the people receiving the birds in Guam are also steeped in the business of cockfighting.
In January 2020, AWA and AWF revealed that there were 137 individuals on Guam who imported nearly 9,000 fighting birds between November 2016 and October 2019 in more than 500 illegal shipments by U.S. mail. AWA and AWF allege that these individuals are cockfighters or “cockfighting brokers” who sold birds to others involved in the sport. The top 10 importers of fighting animals on Guam received about 60 percent of the nearly 9,000 fighting birds, with the top importer receiving 1,608 birds for fighting or closely related purposes. The latest set of shipping records from January – June of this year to Guam put the total number of fighting birds shipped to Guam over 10,000 between November 2016 and June 2021.
It has been illegal since 2002, and a felony since 2007, to transport or sell roosters for fighting across state or territorial lines. It has been a federal felony since December 2019 to operate a fighting pit or to participate in an animal fight.
On October 1, 2020, U.S. District Court for the District of Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands rejected a legal challenge from a Guamanian who alleged the most recently enacted provisions of the federal anti-animal fighting law cannot be legally applied to Guam.
AWA also reminded the leadership of the Guam Department of Agriculture Chelsa Muna-Brecht that her department has a duty to stop abetting illegal activities once it learns of solid evidence of transporters and receivers being steeped in cockfighting activities. “Director Muna-Brecht, with all respect, I assure you that there are no people on Guam paying $1,000 or $2,000 for a rooster to keep the animal as a pet or to use a male animal in a commercial agricultural operation,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “There should be no confusion that large-scale shipments of adult roosters to Guam, passing through your department, are illegal and constitute felony violations of the law.”
“You wouldn’t allow people to ship thousands of pit bulls onto Guam if you knew these people were dogfighting enthusiasts and known traffickers of fighting dogs, and you shouldn’t tolerate this conduct with fighting birds either,” added Pacelle. “There’s just no other logical explanation for shipments of adult roosters on an 8,000-mile journey to Guam except that cockfighters are selling fighting birds to other cockfighters. This masquerade that they are selling birds by the thousands for benign purposes has to end.”
Here are the Department of Agriculture data on exports of fighting birds from U.S. states to Guam, including for the first six months of 2021.
Per calendar year:
- Nov – Dec 2016 total number of roosters exported: 370 (2 months in 2016)
- Jan – Dec 2017 total number of roosters exported: 3819
- Jan – Dec 2018 total number of roosters exported: 2979
- Jan – Dec 2019 total number of roosters exported: 1621
- Jan – Dec 2020 total number of roosters exported: 396
- Jan – June 2021 total number of roosters exported: 1340 (6 months in 2021)
AWA and AWF maintain www.EndCockfighting.org, which serves as a comprehensive resource about the subject and an action center for citizens who want to help combat animal crimes.