Press Release

Spate of Cockfighting Arrests, Investigations Point to Need for Congress to Pass Federal FIGHT Act

Cockfighters continue to act with an impunity, raising millions of birds and staging fights throughout the U.S.

Washington D.C. — After a recent nationwide surge of busts and other police responses related to cockfighting, animal-welfare groups today highlighted their call for passage of the FIGHT Act as a tool to eradicate animal fighting in the United States.

The pending legislation, the Fighting Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Trafficking (FIGHT) Act, would crack down on the barbaric and lawless practices of dogfighting and cockfighting. It would allow for citizen suits against perpetrators, ban online gambling on animal fights, allow for criminal forfeiture of property used to commit animal fighting crimes, and forbid the use of the U.S. mail to ship adult roosters.

Animal Wellness Action, a Washington D.C.-based animal advocacy group, is leading the campaign to pass the FIGHT Act. No other animal welfare legislation has as much bipartisan support as H.R. 2742 and S. 1529.

  • The Jasper County (South Carolina) Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene of a cockfighting event on Saturday. According to police, the event took place off Honey Hill Road in the Perrysburg area of Jasper County. Officers responded with a heavy police presence, according to a news account, and the investigation is ongoing. 
  • In Luzerne County, Penn., a search warrant served in a cockfighting investigation led to more than 100 birds being seized from a residence. In March, the Luzerne County SPCA received a lead regarding a possible cockfighting ring in Sugarloaf Township. According to a news report, “a visit to the residence revealed numerous roosters with evidence that they were used for fighting, a lack of food or water, and other items consistent with activity related to cockfighting or animal abuse.” The search yielded 77 live hens, 59 live roosters, two dead roosters, multiple gloves used to cover rooster spurs to practice fighting, and a package of “Super Vermi-Gallo,” a substance known to be used to promote fighting.
  • In Eastern Washington, federal, tribal and local agencies arrested more than 20 people in a crackdown on gang crime in raids that targeted La Nuestra Familia, a Norteño prison gang, and others suspected of drug trafficking, cockfighting, and money laundering. “The ongoing criminal actions of these gangs perpetuate violence in our community, and we are working tirelessly to protect our neighborhoods, and especially our youth, from the dangerous combination of drug trafficking and violent gang activities,” said Vanessa Waldref, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, during a news conference in downtown Yakima.
  • The Carter County (Oklahoma) Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene of a cockfighting event on Saturday. The event took place off Santa Fe Road in the Wilson area of Carter County. Officers followed up with a search warrant and found ample evidence to charge the property owner. The investigation is ongoing.

“These crimes, all over the country, day after day, indicate that we have an epidemic of cockfighting in our nation,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “Cockfighters are willing to roll the dice, and only when we see regular enforcement and the imposition of felony-level penalties for this barbarism will it stop.”

The USDA’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service has reported that more than 54 commercial and backyard flocks have been infected by H5N1 (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) nationwide, resulting in the depopulation of at least 2.5 million birds. APHIS won’t say how many of these backyard flocks are gamecock operations, but cockfighting flocks are almost certainly part of the matrix of infected populations. A major game bird operation, with nearly 300,000 birds, has been depopulated in north Alabama. These outbreaks are disruptive to commercial poultry operations, cost taxpayers countless millions of dollars, and result in a massive loss of avian life. The United Egg Producers and key poultry trade associations are endorsers of the legislation precisely because of these disease threats.

“These outbreaks are occurring in the heart of the illegal American cockfighting industry,” said James Keen, D.V.M., Ph.D., director of veterinary sciences for the Center for a Humane Economy and the author of a landmark report on cockfighting and the spread of zoonotic diseases.

“We know that widespread movement of fighting birds can spread Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza throughout the western hemisphere and into Asia given the documented sales and transfers of these fighting birds,” he said.

The FIGHT Act has endorsements from 500 organizations and agencies from the domains of animal welfare, law enforcement, agriculture, gaming, and conservation.

“Cockfighting is animal cruelty in its most naked form. And when you couple it with closely related crimes of narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and human-on-human violence, it degrades the safety of our communities,” Pacelle said.

Center for a Humane Economy is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(3) whose mission is to help animals by helping forge a more humane economic order. The first organization of its kind in the animal protection movement, the Center encourages businesses to honor their social responsibilities in a culture where consumers, investors, and other key stakeholders abhor cruelty and the degradation of the environment and embrace innovation as a means of eliminating both. The Center believes helping animals helps us all. Twitter: @TheHumaneCenter

Animal Wellness Action is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) whose mission is to help animals by promoting laws and regulations at federal, state and local levels that forbid cruelty to all animals. The group also works to enforce existing anti-cruelty and wildlife protection laws. Animal Wellness Action believes helping animals helps us all. Twitter: @AWAction_News