March 10, 2009
Oregon Senate Cracks Down on Cockfighting
SALEM, Ore. — The Humane Society of the United States applauded the Oregon state Senate for closing the loophole in Oregon's animal fighting laws by passing S.B. 280, legislation that will make it a Class C felony to be a knowing spectator at a cockfighting event or to participate in any organized animal fight. The bill, sponsored by Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, passed by a vote of 27 to 3.
"Cockfighting is a despicable and indefensible practice," said Scott Beckstead, Oregon state director for The Humane Society of the United States. "Spectators finance cockfights through admission fees and gambling, and Oregon's law was deficient in addressing the people who cheer and enable this cruelty. The Humane Society of the United States thanks Senate President Peter Courtney for his efforts to crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in animal fighting."
Cockfighting spectators are willing participants in this crime, and also perpetuate it by paying admission fees and wagering on the fights. Under current law, participants could claim they were only present at a cockfight as spectators, thereby avoiding any meaningful punishment.
Cockfighting remains a rampant underground industry in Oregon. For instance, in March 2008 the U.S. Attorney's Office announced the indictments of 63 defendants charged with conspiracy, operating an illegal gambling business, multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act, interstate travel in aid of a racketeering enterprise and various drug-trafficking crimes. The indictments were a result of a two-year investigation of interrelated cockfighting and narcotics rings by federal, state and local agencies in Oregon and Washington.
According to U.S. Attorney Karin J. Immergut, "This long investigation and the resulting indictments demonstrate the close relationship between cockfighting and drug trafficking in the Pacific Northwest."
S.B. 280 could help banish this gruesome practice and its side-effects from Oregon by providing a strong disincentive for those who would fuel cockfights by gambling on their outcome. The bill is supported by the Oregon District Attorney's Association, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger, Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Agency, Oregon State Sheriff's Association, Oregon Association Chiefs of Police, Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance and Oregon Animal Control Council.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — on the Web at humanesociety.org.