Arrests come not long after Oklahoma lawmakers turned away attempts to weaken state anti-cockfighting law
Washington, D.C. — Animal Wellness Action issues this press release in response to news today that three men were arrested Saturday in Marshall County Oklahoma for illegal cockfighting.
According to court documents, Herminio Mendoza, Jamie Bell, and Jackson Bell are charged with possessing birds for fighting. Mr. Bell and Mr. Jackson are also charged with having and operating a cockfighting pit west of Madill. If convicted, they all face up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.
In a statement for the media, Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, said:
“It’s very encouraging to see the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office make arrests for the barbaric and sickening practice of cockfighting. Staged fights are occurring with disturbing frequency in Oklahoma, and the only way to stop it is to arrest the perpetrators.”
These three arrests come after other arrests for illegal fighting in Oklahoma County just two weeks ago.
And these arrests in Marshall and Oklahoma counties come after a heavily funded effort by cockfighters to try unwind the state law making cockfighting a felony. Their effort met with failure with the Senate choosing not even to give a hearing to a bill, HB 2530, that would have allowed Oklahoma counties to opt out of the strong penalty provisions of the law approved by voters 21 years ago. A similar bill, SB 1006, by Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, also died weeks earlier in the Senate.
A third bill, HB 1792, a broad rewrite of felonies on a wide range of subjects, including a reduction in fines for cockfighting, dogfighting, and other forms of malicious cruelty, also died.
“Oklahomans want cockfighting to be illegal, they want felony-level penalties for this cruelty, and they want the law actively enforced in every county,”added Pacelle. “Decriminalizing cockfighting was a colossally unpopular and wrong-headed idea. Now, finally we are seeing some enforcement of the voter-approved law. We are grateful to these law enforcement officials for upholding the rule of law. Now we need other county sheriffs to do the same.”
“Oklahoma’s anti-cockfighting law makes possession of fighting animals a felony, and the arrests invoke that critically important prohibition,” said Steve Hindi, president of Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, which has conducted undercover investigations of cockfights in southeast Oklahoma. “We applaud the enforcement agencies for bringing these charges.”
Both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have issued the Fighting Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Trafficking (FIGHT) Act, and the authors hope to include the provision as an amendment to the Farm bill. Both pieces of legislation were driven by concerns for the barbarism of animal fighting, other criminal behavior comingled with it, and disease threats to poultry posed by transporting fighting roosters.
The FIGHT Act, amending Section 26 of the Animal Welfare Act, would enhance the enforcement opportunities by banning simulcasting and gambling of animal fighting ventures; halting the shipment of mature roosters (chickens only) shipped through the U.S. mail (it is already illegal to ship dogs through the mail); creating a citizen suit provision, after proper notice to federal authorities, to allow private right of action against illegal animal fighters; and enhancing forfeiture provisions to include real property for animal fighting crimes.