End Cockfighting Press Release

Animal Advocates Applaud Federal Charges in Massachusetts Case of Dogfighting — Latest in a Series of Interdictions Throughout U.S.

Congress also considering landmark legislation to allow citizens to supplement federal law enforcement actions against criminal syndicates involved in staged animal fighting.

Boston, MA — Animal Wellness Action paused over the Easter Weekend to credit authorities for bringing federal charges against a Massachusetts man for illegal dogfighting activities. He was arrested on nine counts of possessing animals for use in animal fighting. This is the latest federal action against dogfighters — in cases stretching from Indiana to Georgia to New Jersey to Maryland, where a senior Department of Defense official was arrested last year for long-standing involvement in dogfighting.

John Murphy was arrested last Friday after dogs were seized last year from his home in Hanson, Mass. According to press accounts, prosecutors said several of the dogs had scars, wounds, sores, or other injuries. One bore “severe, deep scarring around the neck,” and two others had scars on their heads and legs. One of them had “worn teeth, and several masses on the left flank, right front leg, and undercarriage.”

Murphy appeared Friday in U.S. District Court in Boston and pleaded not guilty.

“Dogfighting is not only one of the cruelest and most heartless forms of animal exploitation, but it is always bound up with other crimes, including narcotics trafficking and illegal gambling,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “We commend District Attorney Levy and his office for bringing federal charges and cracking down on this universally reviled crime.”

Animal Wellness Action is focused on ensuring passage of new federal legislation called the FIGHT Act that would strengthen penalties and enforcement tools against animal-fighting.

The federal FIGHT Act, H.R. 2742 and S. 1529, 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. 

“The barbarism of dogfighting and cockfighting, and the widespread nature of these practices, require even more law enforcement tools to crack down on staged animal combat,” added Pacelle. “We urge Congress to complete work on the FIGHT Act in 2024, sending a signal to people involved in these activities that they risk their freedom and their assets if they persist in committing these crimes.”

Co-led in the U.S. House by Reps. Don Bacon, R-Neb., and Andrea Salinas, D-Ore., and in the Senate by Senators Cory Booker, D-N.J., and John Kennedy, R-La., the FIGHT Act has endorsements from 500 organizations and agencies from the domains of animal welfare, law enforcement, agriculture, gaming, and conservation. No other animal welfare legislation has as much bipartisan support as H.R. 2742 and S. 1529

Calling animal fighting “cruel, illegal, and unacceptable,” Sen. Booker is also promoting the FIGHT Act from his perch on the Agriculture Committee. Booker led the successful effort in 2018 to extend all prohibitions against animal fighting to the U.S. territories. His co-author, Sen. Kennedy, called animal fighters “organized and dangerous—to people as well as innocent animals.” Rep. Bacon called it “disgusting” that people “profit off the cruel practice of forcing animals to fight for their lives.”

The FIGHT Act also targets cockfighting, which, in addition to its criminal component, carries the risk of disease-spread.

“Cockfighting contributed to the spread of the H5N1 avian flu in Asia, and it could do the same here,” said Rep. Salinas, an Agriculture Committee member, in a letter to President Biden urging him to endorse the FIGHT Act. She noted that cockfighting is a problem well beyond its animal cruelty features. “Ten of the 15 outbreaks of virulent Newcastle Disease in the U.S. in recent decades were linked to illegal trafficking of fighting birds from Mexico into the United States,” she said. Just three outbreaks cost American taxpayers a billion dollars in containment and indemnity costs.

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