Animal Wellness Action Comments on Atoka Cockfighting Activities

KTUL- Savannah Sinclair - July 18, 2022 6:33 am

President of Animal Wellness Action Wayne Pacelle issued a comment concerning allegations from the animal-welfare group SHARK that Atoka County Sheriff Tony Head in southeast Oklahoma has been disobedient in not enforcing the state’s anti-cockfighting law.

The following statement was released:

Animal Wellness Action has acted on multiple tips on illegal cockfighting activities in Stringtown in Atoka County for two years. After conducting investigations to confirm the intelligence provided to us, we notified Sheriff Head and his deputies of upcoming cockfights, providing the location, time, and even the entrance fees for the cockfights. Not a single time did his office take any action to interdict the fight even though he is sworn to uphold the laws of Oklahoma. Our intelligence reports that he and his team were well aware of the fights in this small town and have done nothing but protect the people involved in this form of organized crime.

AWA and the Animal Wellness Foundation announced in 2020 the results of a major investigation that showed major cockfighting industries openly operating within the state.

Former Oklahoma Attorney General and co-chair of the National Law Enforcement Council of AWA Drew Edmondson, provided three Oklahoma attorneys evidence of about 21 individuals operating cockfighting.

There are also 13 videos made by a Philippines-based broadcaster featuring Oklahoma-based cockfighters who marketed their birds for sale to other cockfighters around the world.

AWA documented two cockfighters. One was located in LeFlore County and the other located in Haskell County. These two shipped 5,000 birds to Guam for illegal cockfighting activities, a violation of federal law.

Oklahoma Representative Justin Humphrey, whose district includes Atoka County, introduced House Bill 3283 this year that sought to decriminalize training and possessing birds to fight them. The bill did not pass the house.

Oklahoma voters approved the anti-cockfighting law in 2002 at the recommendation of the Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating and United States Senator Jim Inhofe.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional in a unanimous decision after cockfighters challenged it.

Throughout the years Oklahoma lawmakers rejected bills to weaken the law. These bills would have legalized an activity that most states had banned in the 1800s.

Law enforcement has identified that animal fighting is often tied to other crimes such as drug trafficking, illegal gambling, gang violence, public corruption, additional forms of extreme animal cruelty, and human-on-human violence.


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