(Oklahoma City) – Today, the Oklahoma House of Representatives chose not to take up House Bill 3283, by Rep. Justin Humphrey, that would have gutted penalties in Oklahoma’s comprehensive, voter-approved anti-cockfighting law. The bill would have also decriminalized possessing and training of fighting animals. Today was the deadline for a bill to get out of its chamber of origin, so that means that House inaction translates into the death of the bill.
“H.B. 3283 would have made cockfighting violations the price of a speeding ticket and subverted the will of Oklahoma voters,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “It was an outrageous maneuver to allow individuals to commit malicious and premeditated acts of cruelty. House leaders acted responsibly in letting the bill a humane death.”
Cockfighting is a legally and morally settled matter in Oklahoma.Oklahoma became the 48th state to outlaw cockfighting after a vote of the people in 2002, setting the stage for New Mexico and Louisiana to follow suit soon thereafter and outlaw it in every state.
When Oklahoma voters approved the anti-cockfighting law in 2002, they did so at the recommendation of Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, Attorney General Drew Edmondson, and U.S. Representative Tom Cole. The Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional in a unanimous decision after the law was challenged.
Also in 2002, Congress banned any interstate or foreign transport of fighting animals. Lawmakers subsequently strengthened the federal animal fighting law four times, with the Congress establishing a national ban on animal fighting in 2019, leaving not an acre of American soil a refuge for cockfighting. Reps. Tom Cole (R-4) and Frank Lucas (R-3) voted in favor of the national law, and the measure passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate.
An Animal Wellness Action investigation unearthed two dozen cockfighting operators illegally shipping birds to Mexico, the Philippines, and some 20 other nations. Records obtained from the Guam Department of Agriculture revealed that Oklahoma cockfighters shipped nearly 5,000 fighting birds to Guam over the last five years; this is contraband and these people have no respect for the law.
“If this bill had passed, Oklahoma would have reverted to its situation 20 years ago, with dozens of cockfighting pits operating on the Oklahoma side of its borders with Arkansas, Texas, and Kansas,” noted Drew Edmondson, who serves as the co-chair of the Animal Wellness National Law Enforcement Council. “All border states treat cockfighting as a felony offense, and Oklahoma will be a magnet for criminals in these states, conducting illegal gambling, drug trafficking, money laundering, and attempting to corrupt law enforcement.”