End Cockfighting Press Release

Pro-Cockfighting Bills On Life Support in Oklahoma Legislature

HB 3136 fails to get a hearing in its first House Committee, killing that bill. Two bills that carried over from 2023 are stalled in the Senate.

Oklahoma City, OK – The latest legislative measure to unwind the state law making cockfighting a felony died an early death, with its first key committee not taking up the measure by yesterday’s deadline for action. HB 3136, by Rep. Danny Sterling, R-Tecumseh, failed to even get a hearing in the House Judiciary Criminal Committee.

Two bills carried over from last year’s debate are stalled in the Senate. HB 2530 was stripped of its title and sent to the Senate and had no action taken. A similar bill, SB 1006, by Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, also has attracted no favorable Senate attention. It seems unlikely that the chamber will take up either measure in 2024.

“Oklahomans want cockfighting to be illegal, they want felony-level penalties for perpetrators of these crimes, and they want the law actively enforced in every county,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “Decriminalizing cockfighting was a colossally unpopular and wrong-headed idea. We are grateful that lawmakers are kicking this backwards idea to the curb.”

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. The survey is the first independent poll to examine attitudes toward cockfighting in the state in years.

“Lawmakers now better understand that they are being lobbied by people systematically breaking the anti-cruelty laws of Oklahoma and the United States,” said Kevin Chambers, Oklahoma State Director for Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. Mr. Chambers is a native of Adair County and lives now in Tulsa County.

Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy are still seeing a troubling lack of enforcement with the existing law—a truth at odds with the false framing by the cockfighters of a law that is supposedly too tough. A month ago, more than one hundred cockfighters did their own convening at a metal building in a remote area of Adair County for eight hours of cockfighting and unregulated gambling — both felonies in Oklahoma. The fighting pit and the derby that occurred there was discovered by Showing Animal Respect and Kindness (SHARK), and it’s the latest revelation of a hardened, underground cockfighting community disregarding the rule of law and, without shame, petitioning legislators to weaken the law.

“The problem is not that our anti-cruelty laws are too harsh,” said Drew Edmondson, former Oklahoma Attorney General (1994-2010) and co-chair of the National Law Enforcement Council for Animal Wellness Action. “Rather, it’s that cockfighters are exhibiting knowing and reckless disregard for our laws, and some county sheriffs and district attorneys are failing to uphold the law without fear or favor.” Edmondson was attorney general when Oklahoma approved State Question 687, and he defended the measure against cockfighters’ subsequent attacks in court to try to suspend the law in certain counties. In 2004, the Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the vote of the people was a proper exercise of state authority.

Animal Wellness Action and SHARK will continue to forward detailed information to county, state, and federal law enforcement authorities about the substantial network of organized cockfighting criminals in the state.

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

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