Hialeah man arrested for cockfighting. Animal Wellness Action notes correlation between animal fighting and other criminal activity.
Hialeah, FL — Leaders of two national animal-welfare groups are applauding the work of Hialeah, Fla., police and their arrest Thursday of a local man with charges related to cockfighting. Cockfighting is a felony under state law, and also under federal law.
“Our anti-cruelty laws are not showpieces,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. “These laws must be put to work to halt barbaric practices such as cockfighting and dogfighting. When authorities arrest perpetrators, they make our communities safer for animals and people.”
The groups — Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy — also announced an expanded rewards programs, which includes not only up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of cockfighters and dogfighters but other incentives that point police to ongoing fights, training venues and animals being kept for fighting. Tipsters can email email@example.com.
Juan Romero, 58, was charged with owning, selling or training animals to fight after police, investigating another case, discovered “a large amount of cages, a large amount of roosters, and inside, they found a ring. They found an actual fighting ring inside of [his] business,” according to Hialeah Police Dept. Lt. Eddie Rodriguez.
News reports say the operation also reportedly included a fully functional training ring dedicated to rooster fighting and evidence that Romero was breeding and training the roosters for illegal fighting activities, using his place of business as a storage facility.
“Animal fighting is an ongoing problem not just in Florida, but throughout the nation,” added Wayne Pacelle, whose group is combating the staged animal fighting operations from coast to coast. “We ask citizens to serve on juries and to be witnesses in criminal proceedings, and now we ask them to give us and law enforcement tips when they stumble across illegal animal fighting operations. We are asking for their help and will pay them for credible information that results in arrests.”
Pacelle says that in addition to the abject animal cruelty involved when roosters and dogs are forced to fight one another, the illegal activity poses threats to humans.
- DISEASE. Animal Wellness Action and the Center released a comprehensive 62-page report on the links between cockfighting and avian influenza and virulent Newcastle Disease. There have been 15 introductions of vND into the United States since 1950, 10 of which occurred via the illegal smuggling of gamecocks across the southern border from Mexico. (Virulent Newcastle disease is endemic in Mexico and all of Latin America.) Just three of those outbreaks cost the federal government close to $1 billion.
- ASSOCIATED CRIME. Animal fights are drenched in other criminal activities, including the trafficking of illicit substances, prostitution, wagering and sometimes murder. Animal Wellness Action has offered a reward related to two execution-style killings at a Mississippi cockfight in November, and six people were killed recently at a cockfight in Guerrero, Mexico.
Congress Must Take up the FIGHT Act
Pacelle and others are working in Congress to speed the passage of the FIGHT Act (Fighting Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Trafficking). It would enhance 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. Read more here.
“I consider passing the FIGHT Act in Congress (S. 1529/H.R. 2742) as urgent a priority as we have at Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy,” Pacelle said. Rep. Elvira Salazar, R-27, and Lois Frankel, D-22, are cosponsors of H.R. 2742 in the House. The bill has more than 450 endorsing agencies and organizations, including the Florida Sheriffs’ Association and 200 other law enforcement agencies. Seven other Florida House members are cosponsors of the bill, but neither Senator Marco Rubio nor Rick Scott has cosponsored S. 1529.