Crime of cockfighting is ‘surprisingly widespread’ in Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia region, group says.
Washington, D.C. — Today, Animal Wellness Action and sister organization Center for a Humane Economy issued a statement in support of the Calvert County (Maryland) State’s Attorney’s office for filing a criminal information document charging a Huntingtown man with several counts of animal cruelty tied to cockfighting.
The proceedings stem from Sept. 2, 2022, when authorities alleged 36-year-old Alberto Hinojosa Morales owned, sold, trained, and transported nine roosters. Filings indicate he did so “with the intent that the fowl be used in a cockfight,” according to a story on SoMDnews. Assistant State’s Attorney Kyle B. Tores filed the papers with district court.
According to the story, Morales also is charged with possessing a cockfight implement — a sparring muff — in addition to the animal-cruelty counts. A summons was issued to Morales August 29, and a preliminary inquiry is scheduled for October 16 in district court.
Maryland has a strong law against illegal cockfighting and it’s important that the law be enforced,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. “Law enforcement cannot always interrupt fights in progress. It must have the tools to make arrests of people who possess animals for fighting purposes.”
In the region, Delaware authorities recently arrested a couple for organizing and hosting a massive cockfighting operation in Kent County. Cockfighting is surprisingly widespread in the Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia region.
Animal fighting is typically bound up with illicit gambling, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and other crimes. It is also a federal crime to engage in animal fighting or a wide range of associated activities, including possessing fighting animals or being a spectator at a fighting venue.
Animal Wellness Action provides rewards of $2,500 to individuals who report animal-fighting crimes that result in an arrest and conviction. Reports can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Animal Wellness Action is working with Senator John Kennedy, R-La., and Rep. Troy Carter, D-La., to advance the FIGHT Act in Congress. The authors of the Fighting Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Trafficking (FIGHT) Act, S. 1529 and H.R. 2742, 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 commingled 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.
More than 270 organizations, businesses, and agencies have endorsed the FIGHT Act, including the American Gaming Association, the United Egg Producers, and the Small and Rural Law Enforcement Executives’ Association.
“If law enforcement wants to crack down on a wide range of crimes in the community, make a cockfighting bust,” added Pacelle. “These are venues where a cluster of people committing a wide range of crimes assemble.”
Media Resources: Press release on introduction of Senator Kennedy’s legislation. A blog on murder and mayhem associated with animal fighting. Fact sheet on S. 1529/H.R. 2742. Blog on federal courts affirming national ban on animal fighting. Research paper on cockfighting and avian influenza and other infectious diseases.