Cockfighting ban in U.S. territories takes effect tomorrow, despite resistance in Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on December 19, 2019 with 5 Comments

Tomorrow, a hard-won federal law goes into effect to close a loophole that allowed cockfighters to continue operating in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We’ve strongly supported this law because it seeks to end a cruel practice that results in severe suffering and death for countless birds each year.

Regrettably, however, cockfighters and their associated lobbies in the territories have been putting up resistance and seeking to undermine it. Puerto Rico, for instance, has passed a law that aims to keep cockfighting alive there. But the federal law has already been challenged by cockfighters, and they have lost. In late October a federal district court for the District of Puerto Rico found that Congress was well within its power to clarify that the existing federal ban on cockfighting in the U.S. states applies equally to the U.S. territories.

Our hope is that lawmakers in the affected territories will respond in the way that governors of U.S. states and other jurisdictions have done in the past when such cruelties have come within the scope of law enforcement in an increasingly humane society. They ought to be thinking ahead to ways to lay the groundwork for the implementation and respect of such statutes.

All too often, those who are involved in this blood sport, anywhere in the world, claim cockfighting as a tradition and a culture. But tradition and culture are not a defense for animal cruelty. Cockfighting pits one animal against another for gambling and entertainment. The birds suffer terribly: they are often drugged to heighten their aggression and razor-sharp weapons are attached to their legs for the fight. Common injuries include punctured lungs, broken bones and pierced eyes. Dead and dying birds are thrown away like trash. And that’s simply not right.

That’s why the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act was introduced in Congress in 2017— and that’s why we’ve supported it in every way.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Humane Society of the United States fought hard for this legislation because there shouldn’t be one set of rules against animal fighting in 50 states and another set for the U.S. territories. We worked with the bill’s many champions in Congress to get it enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support.

What makes such a law even more necessary is the fact that animal fighting is often associated with other criminal activity, including gangs, gambling, drug trafficking, illegal weapons dealing, public corruption and violent crimes against people. It also endangers public health; cockfighting has been directly implicated in the spread of bird flu and other diseases that have caused human deaths and cost taxpayers and the poultry industry millions of dollars.

We look forward to PACE taking effect tomorrow. The HSUS, with other animal organizations, is active in the U.S. territories and elsewhere in the world, helping to strengthen the human-animal bond and to build out a culture of petkeeping and kindness to animals. We are very committed to the spread of humane values throughout the United States and its territories, and, indeed, throughout the world. That’s our mission and that’s the standard that we’ll assert and defend in the years to come.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    Qué bueno ya era hora de que se hiciera algo al respecto

  2. ron thomas says:

    cock figthing stiill in 2020… what kind of society do we lvie in!!!!!! monsters abound….

  3. Joel Maldonado says:

    As I read this i see you know nothing about cockfighting in PR and you’ve done nothing to learn and try not to sound so ignorant about it. There’s no razor-blades, no drugs,etc. When the birds fight they release 15 times more endorphines than a human, translate that to suffering or pleasure?

    How many flu cases directly linked to cockfighting in the last year?

    Please do not misinform people with your message.

  4. Catherine Roman says:

    In need of urgent action to save animals in the Mayagüez Zoo , Puerto Rico. This animals are being neglected, caged in small cages and are dying of mal nutrition.
    Please help these animals, because the government is not taking action.
    Hope someone reads this comment and takes action immediately!

  5. Caty Roman says:

    Please save the bears, lions, monkeys, rhinos, hippos, , deers and lots of animals that are dying in the Mayaguez Zoo, Puerto Rico!!
    Someone has to take action and stop this cruelty!
    Please save them!!

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