Press Release

Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission Effort to Weaken State Anti-Cockfighting Law Didn’t Get Out of the Batter’s Box in 2024

State lawmakers conclude their work for the year and anti-cockfighting laws remain fully intact as cockfighters pivot and target sheriffs who enforce anti-cruelty laws.

Oklahoma City — The legislative attempt to unwind Oklahoma’s voter-approved anti-cockfighting law crashed and burned at the state capitol in 2024, with the 59th Legislative session officially ending last week. A pro-cockfighting bill, HB 3136, by Rep. Danny Sterling, R-Tecumseh, failed even to get a hearing in the House. Recognizing their lack of influence in the capitol in Oklahoma City, cockfighters have resorted to attacking county sheriffs, including Carter County Sheriff Chris Bryant, for bringing charges against cockfighters, including animal fighters involved in narcotics traffic, theft, and money laundering.

Two bills to decriminalize cockfighting carried over from last year also didn’t move forward in any way in the legislative session. The Senate didn’t pay attention to either HB 2530, by Rep. J.J. Humphrey, or SB 1006, by Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, who seems to have abandoned his original policy idea.

“Oklahoma lawmakers were right not to give the cockfighters the time of day this year at the state capitol,” said Kevin Chambers, Oklahoma state director of Animal Wellness Action. “Lawmakers didn’t even have a hearing on any of their cockfighting decriminalization bills.”

“Oklahomans want cockfighting to be illegal, they want felony-level penalties for this cruelty, and they want the law actively enforced in every county,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, which helped lead opposition to the legislation. “Decriminalizing cockfighting was a colossally unpopular and wrong-headed idea.”

According to a Sooner Survey released in late March, 2023, 87 percent of Oklahomans favor a ban on cockfighting. “Even in the southeast (86%) and southwest (80%) we have uber-majorities wanting cockfighting to be illegal. In fact, in each of the five congressional districts in Oklahoma, at least 83% want cockfighting to be illegal and in no instance does support for legality exceed 12%,” observed Pat McFerron, president of Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates and architect of the Sooner Survey.

Recently the state’s most outspoken cockfighting enthusiast, Anthony DeVore, took to TikTok to denounce Carter County Sheriff Chris Bryant for enforcing laws against animal cruelty, illegal immigration, and drug trafficking.

“The cockfighters are involved in a wide array of crimes, and now they are targeting law enforcement,” said Colonel Tom Pool, D.V.M., senior veterinarian with Animal Wellness Action. “All Oklahomans concerned about the rule of law and crime in our communities should support our brave sheriffs and prosecutors working to make our communities safer.” Dr. Pool is a rancher from Comanche County and former chief of the U.S. Army Veterinary Command.

This week, Oklahoma State Rep. J.J. Humphrey issued a welcome video for participants at an annual gathering of the World Association of Cockfighting Breeders. Previously, Humphrey claimed HB 2530 to weaken Oklahoma’s anti-cruelty law was about criminal justice reform and not about cockfighting.

“I appreciate all that you’re doing worldwide to save this industry,” Humphrey says in the video. “You guys have got large farms; you’ve got buildings and industries…. Many places, states, other countries have coliseums and all kinds of things dedicated to either showing or fighting chickens. And again, we’re just proud to join with you to try to protect your investment.”

It is a state and a federal felony to possess birds for fighting, and it is a federal felony to ship birds for fighting across state or national boundaries.

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