Illegal cockfighting in Arizona
4 / JULIO / 2009
Phoenix Animal Welfare ExaminerAmanda Chilcher
Cockfighting was at one time considered to be an accepted event in the United States, but is now illegal throughout the country. However, many underground cockfighting rings are still being uncovered in Arizona.
Recent incidences in Arizona:
- January, 2009 – Officers confiscated at least 50 birds from a Phoenix tire business. Investigators found roosters in cages, syringes and animal vitamin products that are commonly injected into the birds to prepare them for fights.
- February, 2009 – Animal rescue workers discovered 102 birds inside a Phoenix home. They also found gaffs and other animal-fighting materials. (Gaffs are metal spurs, knives or razors that are tied to the bird’s leg where their natural spur has been cut.)
- July, 2009 – in Harquahala Valley, near Baseline Road & 515th Avenue, deputies arrested three blood-covered suspects who were found with several roosters, many of which were dead. The suspects reportedly admitted holding cockfights. Two of the suspects have also had immigration holds placed on them for being in the country illegally.
Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez, an anthropologist and chairman of the transborder-studies department at Arizona State University says, “Every time you have immigrants or migrants from Mexico or the Caribbean or migrants from Southeast Asia,” you are going to see more cockfighting.” John Goodwin, the Humane Society of the United States manager of animal-fighting issues, links the spike in this blood sport to the economy, immigration trends and a growing police awareness of animal fighting. (Remember rapper DMX and football player Michael Vick?)
To prepare them for fighting, roosters are typically injected with vitamins and steroids, and sometimes tequila is rubbed on their bodies to cause agitation before the fight. Whether or not they fight to the death, the animals endure such physical trauma, that ultimately, many of them die.
In Arizona, anyone convicted of being involved in cockfighting operations or possessing cockfighting birds faces felony charges and penalties of up to two years in prison and $150,000 in fines. Spectators at cockfights face misdemeanor charges with a maximum penalty of $25,000. What about this: Place the cockfighting organizers, spectators and gamblers inside a pen with knives and find out who will be the last man standing. Now that might be justice.
Not only are the roosters harmed in the ring, but many of them face horrible outcomes even after being rescued. Dr. Nancy Bradley with the Arizona Humane Society says of recovered fighting cocks, “It’s potentially like a pit bull after it’s been raised to fight, fight, fight. That’s not going to make a good family pet.” Because of this, sadly, many of the roosters are euthanized.
In March of 2009, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced a new program to crack down on dog fighting and cockfighting. Rewards of up to $5000 are offered to tipsters who alert the sheriff’s office of animal fighting operations. Anyone with information about animal fighting is asked to call the sheriff’s hotline at (602) 876-7283. Identities are protected. In other areas, if you suspect animal cruelty of any kind, please contact your local law enforcement agency.