WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the wake of Animal Wellness Action (AWA) obtaining a secret schedule of cockfighting derbies planned for “The Dome” in Dededo starting on New Year’s Day, the organization’s president, Wayne Pacelle, called on Governor Leon Guerrero to speak out publicly and to call on organizers to cancel their plans for the illegal event. A source within the cockfighting community shared the schedule with AWA, and the animal welfare group released the schedule to the public late last week. The biggest outlays of cash are set for Saturdays, with each entrant in a three-cock derby required to pay $600 into the pot, and with smaller pots for fights on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.
“We ask you to speak out publicly against this criminal conspiracy, call on the organizers to scuttle their plans, and announce that law enforcement personnel will be present to maintain the peace and discourage any illegal acts of animal cruelty,” said Mr. Pacelle in a letter sent to Governor Leon Guerrero today.
The schedule for cockfights describes a “Grand Opening” for the “Dededo Game Club,” which had been the main arena on Guam prior to the national ban on cockfighting taking effect on December 20, 2019. The Congress amended the Animal Fighting law specifically to extend all federal prohibitions against cockfighting to Guam, Puerto Rico, and the other territories. Cockfighting interests challenged the constitutionality of the law, and several federal courts, including the U.S. District Court for Guam, ruled that the United States engaged in a proper exercise of its authority in imposing the ban. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a unanimous ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirming that cockfighting is a crime everywhere in the country.
Earlier this year, AWA and Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF) obtained shipping records from the Guam Department of Agriculture (the Department) revealing that illegal shipments of fighting birds continue. In fact, shipments of fighting birds increased 600 percent from the prior year – from 396 animals for all of 2020 to 1,340 for the first six months of the year. Cockfighters are on track to receive shipments of nearly 3,000 fighting roosters for the year. AWA is requesting the latest shipping records from the Department.
“After the federal law took effect, you properly refused to authorize village cockfights, despite your stated disagreement with the law,” added Mr. Pacelle. “Village mayors honored your decision. The fights planned at the Dededo Game Club are audacious and demand attention from you and other political leaders on the island.”
Of the 10,000 fighting birds shipped to Guam, according to shipping records of the Guam Department of Agriculture over the last four years, the top 10 importers of fighting animals on Guam received about 60 percent of the fighting birds.
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 in the territories.
On November 19th, 36 Members of Congress wrote to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and urged them to crack down on shipments of fighting animals through the U.S. mails, citing the brisk trade to Guam in their letter.
A copy of the letter is available here.
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.