Help stop dangerous bills that would reduce the penalties for animal fighting

By Kitty Block

By on April 3, 2023 with 21 Comments

So much of our work centers on making positive progress for animals, helping to pass state or federal laws to ensure their protection, working on corporate social responsibility campaigns to get companies to change their practices or appealing directly to the public to raise awareness. But sometimes we must take a different approach, rallying to prevent dangerous regression in animal protection work.

Right now, for example, in Oklahoma, two state bills lowering penalties for animal fighting have cleared the Oklahoma House of Representatives and are now under consideration in the senate; we need your help to stop them.

Last month, the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted in favor of HB 1792 and HB 2530, which would among other things decrease the fine for dogfighting to just $500 and reduce penalties for cockfighting to a low-level misdemeanor with a $500 fine.

This is a terrible step backwards. The Oklahoma legislature passed a law against dogfighting in 1982, and Oklahoma’s cockfighting law was approved by its voters on a statewide ballot in 2002, establishing felony penalties for cockfighting and associated activities such as breeding and trafficking animals for fighting.

There is no reason to take a more lenient stance on animal fighting, a form of organized crime centered around conspicuous animal cruelty. In cockfighting, roosters fitted with razor-sharp blades are forced to fight to the death. In the process, the birds are gored, sliced and have their eyes and lungs punctured, while spectators bet on the animals’ will to survive, for gambling and entertainment.

Dogfighting is a felony in all 50 states, and cockfighting is a felony in 42 states and Washington, D.C, and a misdemeanor in eight states, and both dogfighting and cockfighting are federal felonies in all U.S. territories. So why are these proposals to go soft on animal fighting making headway in Oklahoma?

The cockfighters’ political action committee

In 2022, a group of people defending cockfighting and animal trafficking formed a political action committee, raised almost $70,000 and donated to the political campaigns of 54 candidates for office. They attended campaign events, enjoyed dinner at the governor’s mansion and even received invitations to the gubernatorial ball. They have been in the state capitol lobbying almost every day since the beginning of the legislative session while committing violations of the state’s ethics laws by not disclosing the source of their donors and not officially registering as lobbyists.

When animal fighting enthusiasts and traffickers lobby for a reduction in penalties for the crime of animal fighting, it’s because the penalty they’re proposing is something they consider an acceptable cost of doing business.

The cockfighters and sponsors of HB 2530 have even made an outrageous comparison to current criminal justice reform initiatives regarding low-level drug possession. But there’s no comparing that kind of reform, which seeks to engage the problem of individuals’ substance abuse more constructively, with softening penalties for the intentional, organized and violent crimes of dogfighting and cockfighting.

A pit found on the scene of a raid of an alleged cockfighting ring. Meredith Lee/The HSUS

Animal fighters are not farmers and do not represent rural views

When it’s convenient—like when they’re walking the halls of state capitols or attending dinners with politicians—cockfighters often claim to be farmers representing the views of rural citizens. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here are the facts. These dangerous bills are being pushed by owners of large gamefowl “farms”—large tracts of land on which hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of roosters are bred and sold for the purpose of fighting. They’re trying to pass themselves off as farmers, but the truth is that they are a direct threat to legitimate farmers and bird flocks because of the high risk of spreading avian influenza and virulent Newcastle disease.

The fighting birds these individuals raise are not being raised to produce food. Instead, these gamefowl “farm” owners are fueling the global cockfighting industry.

Polling in some of the largest cockfighting states—Oklahoma, Kentucky and Georgia—shows that people from all regions and political affiliations oppose animal fighting. In an October 2022 poll, 91.3% of Oklahoma voters, including 86.6% of Republican voters, said they oppose reducing penalties for animal fighting.

What happens in Oklahoma could have negative implications nationwide

Dogfighters and cockfighters across the country are watching to see what happens in Oklahoma. Some of them are donating money to the cockfighting PAC there and contacting Oklahoma legislators to support the bills.

Animal fighting injures more than animals—it wreaks havoc on communities. The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys states that there is “a direct link between the criminal acts of animal fighting and other serious felonies, such as illegal firearms and gambling, drug distribution, money laundering, aggravated assaults, child pornography, human trafficking and gang activity. Experts recognize the need for higher penalties for animal fighting and its associated activities, including the trafficking of animals and being a spectator to a fight. … Animal fighting is a crime of violence, injuring and killing thousands of animals per year. It is a crime that warrants felony accountability.”

Passage of these bills in Oklahoma could create a domino effect, leading to softer penalties regarding animal fighting in other jurisdictions. If that happens, we’ll be battling dangerous bills like these in states across the country over the next few years. Countless animals will suffer and die in fighting pits because the penalty will be the equivalent of a speeding ticket and essentially meaningless.

If you live in Oklahoma, call your state senator and urge a vote against HB 2530 and HB 1792. There is no place for animal fighting in the more humane world we are trying to create.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.

Companion Animals, Farm Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. M Verhoeven says:

    Stop animal fighting please

  2. Denise Smith says:

    It would be a real shame if they reduced the charges for animals cruelty. If anything they need to ramp them up. Animals are living, breathing creatures the same as humans. They have feelings, they shouldn’t be treated any less than a human life. They can’t do for their selves. They need help. They didn’t ask to be in the situation they are in. No animal deserves to be mistreated.

  3. Lynne says:

    If they want to watch animals fight then would they want to do that themselves with people?

  4. Sharon Meyers says:

    This is by far the most repulsive thing people could do. They who do these things need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. I’m not talking fines, or a month or two in jail and not being allowed to ever have animals again. That certainly goes without saying. These people need jail time I’m talking two or three years. Just furious.

    • Robin says:

      I agree, people should be punished for abusing and injuring dogs, or any animal by using them for fighting. This is a sick entertainment, and I don’t know where people get the thought that it should be legal it should be punished to the fullest extent of the law and further! What the hell kind of people are they???? need serious punishment, jail, time, hard, labor, and not to be around any animals whatsoever! It makes me wonder about these sick chickens that hurt animals for their enjoyment! Sick, sick sick. Laws need to be passed to punish these people. Severe laws need to be passed to help people spay and neuter their pets if they cannot afford it actually, they should not have pets if they cannot afford to take care of them correctly! It’s too bad we have these situations that are difficult unbearable to most of us, and entertaining to a few of the sick ones they should not have any rights at all to be around animals as precious as they are. Most problem animals are caused by problem, people! Free them and help them please!

  5. Carole Chen-Garson says:

    We must end dog fighting . It’s cruel, barbaric, and really dangerous to the dogs. They are not object but our family member.

  6. J Haines says:

    Shame on Oklahoma state legislature. What are they thinking. Animal fighting and cruelty let the people of Oklahoma fight in a pit instead. There is something very wrong In Oklahoma.



    • Robin says:

      I believe you are correct in what you are saying.! Helpless animals need love and affection and not be some cruel entertainment for stupid people. I wonder how they treat their families if they can hurt animals??!

  8. Guillermo says:

    This doesn’t even make sense! Are these legislators not ashamed??

  9. Patsy Margaroli says:

    Penalties for animal fighting should not be reduced but raised !!! Those fights are cruel, horrible, disgusting and inhuman!

  10. Karin Erker says:

    Stop Animal fighting ist is a cruel horrible inhuman

  11. Natalia Vann says:

    It’s criminal to engage in this kind of violence. There are boxing and wrestling as spectator sports in which to indulge if people find this kind of thing entertaining, the virtue of which being that it is humans who are willingly in the ring instead of innocent animals.

  12. Karin Erker says:

    Stop dog fighting cruel Horror … What are that for cruel people ? Stop

  13. Lisa says:

    Shameful and embarrassing for the state as a whole. Oklahomans, get on your phones!

  14. Pat Granfield says:

    To torture and kill for the entertainment is sick. Animals are kind and civilized. If people want to fight, so be it.

  15. Linda Thurman says:

    Dog and cock fighting should not be allowed anywhere. They have no place in a civilized country. Animals should not be subjected to this cruel punishment.

  16. Anne Darrow says:

    Why would people in power allow such cruel laws. They should be removed from their jobs and new kinder people should be voted in. All animal should be protected. States that allow dog fights, puppy mills, zoos, and allow big cat ownership should be ashamed to broadcast that this is what they allow. Sick and heartless, behaving like Korea, China and Japan.

  17. Mary Ann Zoss Zoss says:

    animal abuse in ALL WAYS has been going on for TOO long and doesnt get the exposure it DESERVES and funding to investigate and HELP these innocent,voiceless creatures the protectection they need and education for humanity that treats them so inhumanly and shamefully. with all the ways the world gets informed ANIMAL ABUSE can not be tolerated .

  18. Anna says:

    Dogfighters are enabled by dog rescues that easy to traffic fight breeds dogs over state lines and hide fight dog yards in plain sight. The more “help” we get for animals, the worse things get.

  19. Amy Allan says:

    This is so sick and p arethetic of the people who partake in animal fighting no matter if they gamble, toss an animal in the ring, or a spectator, how is anyone ok to be any part of it?! How someone’s mind is ok with this sort of torment for entertainment and or monetary gain. Are lives so damn sad, literally looking for a thrill, of something to do, and people came up with animal fighting?! How does it get to this, by the crowds of people collected, all drawn by the horror the animals will undoubtedly face, the poor animals that literally have no other choice, their lives taken from them as soon as the moment whoever seems them a ring fighting/training bait; it is all worse from then on, all is grim for “fight-animals”; all for the purpose of being to entertain human. If the animals had the choice, they would not be locking themselves in a fighting ring to be aggravated horrendously by these human species, the conditions the animal will endure up until, during and presumably for some continues to endure thereafter a fight to the death. Nature just does not do things that sick-minded-human-influenced kind of way.
    People in office, especially, along with all who vote on this particular bill and others with related agendas;
    to considered how it is to be one of these fight-ring animals. Really picture it to be you in those cages and made to fight to a death of you or the forced upon opponent, with a crowd of loud human your already naturally afraid of and unfamiliar with and then all screaming, yelling and doing other things to provoke your fear response. Absolutely horrific what these animals go thru as part in this sick-human-game!

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