Opinion

US Territories Need A Zero-Tolerance Policy Against Animal Fighting

REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

Marty Irby Executive Director, Animal Wellness Action
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In May 2018, U.S. Reps. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), John Faso (R-NY), and Steve Knight (R-Calif.) successfully passed an amendment to the House Farm Bill to strengthen the federal law against dogfighting and cockfighting.

Their measure mirrored the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, H.R. 4202, which would assure that the federal prohibitions against animal fighting apply everywhere in our country including Puerto Rico and other U.S. U.S. territories.

Congress has upgraded the federal ban on animal fighting on four occasions in the past 16 years, each time with overwhelming bipartisan action. That’s warranted given that animal fighting is one of the most vicious and gratuitous forms of human cruelty.

Current law makes it a felony to sponsor or exhibit an animal in a fighting venture; to buy, sell, deliver, possess, train or transport an animal for fighting purposes; to use the Postal Service or other interstate means to promote animal fighting; to buy, sell, deliver or transport cockfighting implements; and to bring a minor to an animal fight. Participants at animal fighting events also can be charged with federal misdemeanors.

Congress was just catching up to American citizens on the issue. Voters in Arizona, Missouri, and Oklahoma showed their disdain for the practices by overwhelming approving ballot measures to stop all animal fighting in their states.

Unfortunately, egregious animal fighting events are still openly staged in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other territories. Polling in Puerto Rico in 2017 revealed that citizens support a ban on cockfighting by a two-to-one margin among those with a position on the issue.

Not only is animal fighting cruel, but it poses serious threats to public health, and creates financial risk to the economy and food systems. Cockfighting involves handling and transport of bloodied and injured birds and can increase the risk of disease transmissions such as bird flu that spreads to poultry market flocks – tainting the food supply.

In a 2004 letter to Congress, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture wrote that cockfighting has “been implicated in the introduction and spread of exotic Newcastle disease in California in 2002 and 2003, which cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $200 million to eradicate, and cost the U.S. poultry industry many millions more in lost export markets.”

The House’s 204 Republicans and 155 Democrats who voted to include the PACE amendment in the House version of the Farm Bill did the right thing.

Last month, bipartisan U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), and Blumenthal (D-Conn.) offered an identical amendment in the U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, Senate leaders denied them a vote on their amendment. For that reason alone, the final Senate bill didn’t contain the language.

With the Farm Bill conferees soon start wading through a wide range of issues in dispute between the House and Senate versions, there’s no compelling reason to omit the anti-animal fighting provision from the final bill.

It’s the right thing to do for U.S. territories; animal fighting is a stain on their reputation, and it’s the right thing for our nation to have a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of blatant cruelty to animals.

Marty Irby is the Executive Director at Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.