Groups up ante, offer reward for animal fighting info

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – Two animal welfare groups that have been taking aim at cockfighting in Kentucky and people who breed the fighting birds have upped the ante, offering a reward for information on fights.

The Animal Wellness Foundation and Animal Wellness Action today announced Thursday a $5,000 reward for information resulting in successful prosecution of any individual for violating the federal law (7 U.S.C. § 2156) against animal fighting.

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The announcement follows the groups’ release of an extensive cockfighting investigation in Kentucky last week and formal request to the U.S. Attorneys for the Eastern and Western districts to investigate trafficking of fighting animals from Kentucky to U.S. territories and to foreign countries.

AWA and AWF developed detailed dossiers on a nine individuals and alleged their involvement in activities related to cockfighting, with several of them shipping cockfighting birds to Mexico, the Philippines, Guam, and other distant locations.

Federal agencies and officers have a duty to enforce our laws against the barbaric practices of cockfighting and dogfighting,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “But their good works depend on the cooperation and alertness of citizens. We ask people who know about illegal animal fighting activities to help us stop these forms of cruelty.”

According to the groups, under the federal anti-animal fighting law, it is a crime to:

  • Knowingly sponsor or exhibit in an animal fighting venture.
  • Knowingly attend an animal fighting venture, or knowingly cause an individual who has not attained the age of 16 to attend an animal fighting venture.
  • Knowingly buy, sell, possess, train, transport, deliver, or receive any animal for purposes of having the animal participate in an animal fighting venture.
  • Knowingly use the mail service of the U.S. Postal Service, or any “written, wire, radio televisions or other form of communications in, or use a facility of, interstate commerce,” to advertise an animal for use in an animal fighting venture, or to advertise a knife, gaff, or other sharp instrument designed to be attached to the leg of a bird for us in an animal fighting venture, or to promote or in any other manner further an animal fighting venture except as performed outside the U.S.
  • Knowingly sell, buy, transport, or deliver in interstate or foreign commerce “a knife, a gaff, or any other sharp instrument” designed or intended to be attached to the leg of a bird for us in an animal fighting venture.

Penalties for each violation of any one of the provisions allows for a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, except for an adult attending an animal fighting venture. Penalties for an adult attendee are one year in prison and a $5,000 fine.

An “animal fighting venture involves a fight conducted or to be conducted between at least two animals for purposes of sport, wagering, or entertainment.”

Prohibitions on attending on selling, buying, possessing, training, transporting, delivering, or receiving an animal in an animal fighting venture; attending an animal fighting venture; or trafficking in knives or gaffs for use on a bird have long applied to all U.S. territories. As of Dec. 20, 2019, it is also a federal crime to sponsor or exhibit an animal in an animal fighting venture.

“Cockfighting breeds a cesspool of other illegal activities, such as gambling and drug use,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action and a former agriculture policy advisor for retired U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky. “We hope the U.S. Attorneys will review the results of the Animal Wellness investigation, and we are also asking members of the public to come forward with information that could help root out this activity in the Bluegrass State.”

Kentucky is one of just eight states without felony-level penalties for cockfighting. The law has no prohibitions on possessing or training animals for fighting.

State Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, has agreed to introduce legislation in the new state legislative session to bring Kentucky’s law in alignment with most other states in cracking down on animal fighting.

Former Kentucky Attorney General Chris Gorman also announced his support for this effort, along with appealing to the U.S. Attorneys in Kentucky to take enforcement action against animal fighting traffickers operating out of Kentucky.

Anyone with information about illegal cockfighting activities can send information to animalcrueltytips@animalwellnessaction.org. Residents can also contact the appropriate U.S. attorneys, the state attorney general, or county sheriffs or district attorneys.