Guam Department of Agriculture Has Taken Also No Disciplinary Action Against Its Own Law Enforcement Officer Who Allegedly Staged Illegal Cockfights
Washington, D.C. — Animal Wellness Action (AWA) has strongly criticized the Guam Department of Agriculture (GDOA) for issuing “hollow and totally adequate” animal import standards that will allow illegal shipments of fighting birds onto the island, subverting federal laws against cockfighting.
An ongoing review of live-animal shipping records by AWA revealed that cockfighters sent more than 11,500 fighting birds to Guam over the last five years. The GDOA’s new standards announced on April 21st, presumably a reaction to AWA’s call to halt shipments of adult fighting birds to the island, will deliver no practical changes to live-animal imports.
As an additional measure of the agency’s lack of resolve in addressing illegal cockfighting, the GDOA has failed to take any meaningful disciplinary action against a law enforcement officer with the agency featured in two videos that placed him at the center of an illegal cockfighting pit. The alleged cockfighter is a Commodity Inspector with the Guam Department of Agriculture, one of a handful of trained and sworn law enforcement officers within that division. AWA released the first video more than three months ago showing the officer pitting a bird at a cockfight.
“Senior leaders and all law enforcement officers of the Guam Department of Agriculture swear an oath to ‘…faithfully support the Constitution of the United States…and the laws of the United States applicable to Guam….’, but that oath is not being honored when it comes to enforcement of our federal anti-cruelty laws,” noted Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “Agency leaders and personnel are enabling cockfighting by clearing for entry thousands of birds that get hacked up in fighting pits on the island.” Four federal courts have ruled that the U.S. has the authority to ban animal fighting everywhere in the country
In addition to recommending the termination of the law enforcement officer who participated in illegal cockfighting, AWA demanded that GDOA screen imports of adult male birds and cooperate with U.S. authorities to forbid illegal transports of fighting birds. These birds come through the U.S. Postal Service to Guam, with Oklahoma, California, Hawaii, Alabama, and North Carolina cockfighters constituting the top five shippers to Guam in the last five years.
Guam has commercial no poultry industry, and no show-bird industry, so the movement of thousands of birds from breed types used for cockfighting amounts to illegal contraband under federal law.
“The new import standards are hollow and won’t change a thing when it comes to the movement of fighting birds to Guam,” added Pacelle. “These rules need to be scrapped and rewritten.” The agency has temporarily banned imports because of a national outbreak of avian influenza, but that ban is an emergency decree and will be lifted once the avian influenza outbreak recedes.
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 five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for perpetrators, except for an adult attending an animal fighting venture. Penalties for adult attendance are one 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.