End Cockfighting Press Release

Contact:
Wayne Pacelle • 202-420-0446
wpacelle@animalwellnessaction.org

Animal Wellness Demands Guam Government Halt Its Role in Enabling Cockfighting Trade

Washington, D.C. — Today, Animal Wellness Action released a second video it has obtained of a fight at an illegal cockfighting derby on Guam, and at the center of the pit is a law enforcement agent with the Guam Department of Agriculture. The video also includes frontal images of a substantial number of other participants, including an unidentified man playing a central role in the illegal gambling taking place at the venue. The organization is offering rewards for information on the identity of other participants at the fight by emailing us at animalcrueltytips@animalwellnessaction.org.

One of the cockfighters and a substantial number of spectators were masked, revealing that the cockfight occurred after the effective date of December 20, 2019 of the federal law banning cockfighting on Guam. The people seen in the video are all violating federal law, either as participants and organizers of the fight or as spectators.

The organization also released drone footage taken on the evening of January 15th showing likely illegal cockfighting activity at The Dome, even after Animal Wellness Action warned cockfighters to stay away from that long-time fighting venue after the organization made public a fight schedule it had obtained from sources tied to the cockfighting community.

Finally, Animal Wellness Action announced it has been involved in early-stage discussions with key personnel at the Guam Department of Agriculture about setting up a more rigorous standard for barring imports of fighting animals to Guam.

“There is not a cockfighting culture on Guam; there is a cockfighting crime network,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “Just like there is a small but lawless community of cockfighters in Oklahoma or Tennessee, there is a small subset of island residents who are breaking the law by staging animal fights and gambling on the outcome. They must kick their criminal habit or face apprehension by federal authorities.”

Animal Wellness Action has been demanding that the Guam Department of Agriculture stop acting as a pass-through operation for the movement of fighting animals to the island. The group is calling on the agency to place a moratorium on the approval of any adult roosters shipped to the island and then adopt formal standards to be sure that exporters and importers of live animals are not involved in animal fighting activities.

“I am heartened by preliminary discussions with the Director of the Department of Agriculture to set up import strictures that will put an end to the trafficking of these animals to the island,” added Pacelle.  “It became a regular occurrence for the Department of Agriculture to allow thousands of fighting birds onto Guam annually to feed the illegal pits on the island. That era must end today.”

Data from the Department of Agriculture reveal a total of 2,138 fighting animals were transported to Guam in 2021 — far exceeding the total numbers of birds shipped in either 2019 or 2020. The top shippers to Guam, based on the latest batch of reports, are John Bottoms (249 roosters) and Bill McNatt (272) of Oklahoma and Domi Corpus (151) of California — who together account for a large percentage of all fighting birds sent to the island.  Over the last five years, Animal Wellness Action documents that 11,323 fighting birds came onto the island through import permits granted by the Department of Agriculture.

The shippers intentionally mischaracterized the birds as “brood fowl” or “show fowl” rather than fighting birds in a transparent act of subterfuge to skirt the federal animal fighting law. Our investigation — which included examination of industry sources, online research, and satellite imagery of farms raising roosters for fighting — makes it clear that dozens of shippers have knowingly violated federal law, as have the importers on Guam. The vast majority of birds shipped to Guam are males and are fighting breeds of birds. Animal Wellness notes there is no commercial poultry industry to speak of on Guam, and there are no competitions for show birds of any consequence on the island.

Animal Wellness Action has called on the Guam Department of Agriculture to terminate the employee featured in the videos once a proper review confirms his identity in these unmistakably illegal acts. The two videos obtained by Animal Wellness Action show the man, identified by key sources as Ken San Nicolas, holding a rooster with blades on his legs in the center of a cockfighting pit, with spectators seated around the center ring and calling outside bets. Mr. San Nicolas is a Commodity Inspector with the Guam Department of Agriculture, one of a handful of trained and sworn law enforcement officers within that division.

All law enforcement officers of the Department of Agriculture, along with other senior officials with the agency, swear an oath to “…faithfully support the Constitution of the United States…and the laws of the United States applicable to Guam….” Four federal courts have ruled that the United States has the authority to ban staged animal fighting on Guam and in all other jurisdictions of the country. In a recent order, the U.S. Supreme Court cemented those decisions by denying a certification for appeal.

Under Section 26 of the Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. 2156, it is a crime to:

  • Knowingly sponsor or exhibit in an animal fighting venture;
  • Knowingly attend an animal fighting venture, or knowingly causing 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 using 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 adult attendance are 1 year in prison and a $5,000 fine. The ban on transporting fighting birds to Guam has been in place since 2002, and a felony since 2007. 

Animal Wellness Action seeks additional tips on illegal cockfighting at animalcrueltytips@animalwellnessaction.org.

Animal Wellness Action (Action) is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization with a mission of helping animals by promoting legal standards forbidding cruelty. We champion causes that alleviate the suffering of companion animals, farm animals, and wildlife. We advocate for policies to stop dogfighting and cockfighting and other forms of malicious cruelty and to confront factory farming and other systemic forms of animal exploitation. To prevent cruelty, we promote enacting good public policies and we work to enforce those policies. To enact good laws, we must elect good lawmakers, and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our issues and which ones don’t. We believe helping animals helps us all.

Animal Wellness Action (Action) is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization with a mission of helping animals by promoting legal standards forbidding cruelty. We champion causes that alleviate the suffering of companion animals, farm animals, and wildlife. We advocate for policies to stop dogfighting and cockfighting and other forms of malicious cruelty and to confront factory farming and other systemic forms of animal exploitation. To prevent cruelty, we promote enacting good public policies and we work to enforce those policies. To enact good laws, we must elect good lawmakers, and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our issues and which ones don’t. We believe helping animals helps us all.

The Animal Wellness Foundation (Foundation) is a Los Angeles-based private charitable organization with a mission of helping animals by making veterinary care available to everyone with a pet, regardless of economic ability. We organize rescue efforts and medical services for dogs and cats in need and help homeless pets find a loving caregiver. We are advocates for getting veterinarians to the front lines of the animal welfare movement; promoting responsible pet ownership; and vaccinating animals against infectious diseases such as distemper. We also support policies that prevent animal cruelty and that alleviate suffering. We believe helping animals helps us all.