Heat on Oklahoma Cockfighters

Edmondson, Animal Wellness Turn Up the Heat on Oklahoma Cockfighters

Edmondson, Animal Wellness Turn Up the Heat on Oklahoma Cockfighters

by Emily Lang

OKLAHOMA CITY, June 6, 2020 — The Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF) and Animal Wellness Action (AWA) today announced a $2,500 reward for information resulting in successful prosecution of any individual for violating the federal law (7 U.S.C. § 2156) or the state law against animal fighting  

The announcement follows last week’s action by former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson formally requesting an investigation of illegal cockfighting activity in the Eastern District of Oklahoma.  Based on the organization’s extensive investigations, identifying that several of the top global shippers of cockfighting birds operate from the eastern part of the state, Edmondson and other leaders at Animal Wellness labeled Oklahoma “the cockfighting capital of the United States.”

Edmondson is co-chair of the National Law Enforcement Council, an arm of AWF and AWA. In a letter sent last week to U.S. Attorney Brian Kuester Edmondson provided results of an AWA/AWF investigation that showed a documented trail of shipments by the U.S. mail of animals from Oklahoma bound for Guam, a U.S. territory in the far western Pacific Ocean that had been a haven for animal fighting.  There is evidence that the shippers also moved birds to other global destinations – all in violation of federal law.

“Cockfighting is typically bound together with other illegal activities, such as gambling and drug use,” Edmondson said. “These are not the values held by Oklahomans, and this lawlessness should not be allowed to continue. While I sincerely hope U.S. Attorney Kuester is reviewing the results of the Animal Wellness investigation, we are also asking members of the public to come forward with information that could help root out this activity in our state.”

Anyone with information about illegal cockfighting activities can send information to animalcrueltytips@animalwellnessaction.org. Residents can also contact the appropriate U.S. Attorneys, the state attorney general, or county sheriffs or district attorneys. 

Under the federal anti-animal fighting law, it is a crime to:

  • Knowingly sponsor or exhibit in an animal fighting venture;
  • Knowingly attend an animal fighting venture, or knowingly cause an individual who has not attained the age of 16 to attend an animal fighting venture;
  • Knowingly buy, sell, possess, train, transport, deliver, or receive any animal for purposes of having the animal participate in an animal fighting venture;
  • Knowingly use the mail service of the U.S. Postal Service, or any “written, wire, radio televisions or other form of communications in, or use a facility of, interstate commerce,” to advertise an animal for use in an animal fighting venture, or to advertise a knife, gaff, or other sharp instrument designed to be attached to the leg of a bird for us in an animal fighting venture, or to promote or in any other manner further an animal fighting venture except as performed outside the U.S.;
  • Knowingly sell, buy, transport, or deliver in interstate or foreign commerce “a knife, a gaff, or any other sharp instrument” designed or intended to be attached to the leg of a bird for us in an animal fighting venture.

Penalties for each violation of any one of these provisions allows for a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for perpetrators, except for an adult attending an animal fighting venture. Penalties for an adult attendee are 1 year in prison and a $5,000 fine.  The state law, which took effect in 2003 after voters approved an initiative, bans fighting and possession and allows for up to 10 years in prison for violators.

An “animal fighting venture “involves a fight conducted or to be conducted between at least two animals for purposes of sport, wagering, or entertainment.

Prohibitions on attending on selling, buying, possessing, training, transporting, delivering, or receiving an animal in an animal fighting venture; attending an animal fighting venture; or trafficking in knives or gaffs for use on a bird have long applied to all U.S. territories. On December 20, 2019, these prohibitions are effective in the U.S. territories: sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal fighting venture or knowing using the mail service of the U.S. Postal Service, or advertising an animal for use in a fighting venture, to advertise a knife or gaff, or to promote an animal fighting venture.

“Federal agencies and officers have a duty to enforce our laws against the barbaric practices of cockfighting and dogfighting,” said Wayne Pacelle of the AWF. “But their good works depend on the cooperation and alertness of citizens. We ask people who know about illegal animal fighting activities to help us stop these forms of cruelty.”

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