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  /  News   /  Animal activists argue over anti-cockfighting law

Animal activists argue over anti-cockfighting law

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — Oklahoma animal proponents Animal Wellness Action and The Center for a Humane Economy issued a news release Monday addressing the lack of influence in the latest legislative attempt to unwind Oklahoma’s voter-approved anti-cockfighting law.

The nonprofit organizations say the anti-cockfighting law crashed and burned at the state Capitol in 2024, with the 59th Legislative session officially ending last week.

The animal activist groups say a pro-cockfighting bill, House Bill 3136, by Rep. Danny Sterling, R-Tecumseh, failed even to get a hearing in the House.


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Two bills to decriminalize cockfighting carried over from last year stalled. According to the animal activist organizations, the Senate didn’t pay attention to either House Bill 2530, by Rep. J.J. Humphrey, or Senate Bill 1006, by Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle.

“Oklahoma lawmakers were right not to give the cockfighters the time of day this year at the state Capitol,” said Kevin Chambers, Oklahoma state director of Animal Wellness Action. “Lawmakers didn’t even have a hearing on any of their cockfighting decriminalization bills.”

“Oklahomans want cockfighting to be illegal, they want felony-level penalties for this cruelty, and they want the law actively enforced in every county,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, which helped lead opposition to the legislation. “Decriminalizing cockfighting was a colossally unpopular and wrong-headed idea.”

According to a Sooner Survey released in late March 2023, the animal activists leaders say, 87% of Oklahomans favor a ban on cockfighting.


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“Even in the southeast (86%) and southwest (80%) we have uber-majorities wanting cockfighting to be illegal. In each of the five congressional districts in Oklahoma, at least 83% want cockfighting to be illegal, and in no instance does support for legality exceed 12%,” said Pat McFerron, president of Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates and architect of the Sooner Survey.

Both nonprofit organizations went on to say in a news conference that the state’s most outspoken cockfighting enthusiast, Anthony DeVore, took to TikTok to denounce Carter County Sheriff Chris Bryant for enforcing laws against animal cruelty, illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

“The cockfighters are involved in a wide array of crimes, and now they are targeting law enforcement,” said Col. Tom Pool, senior veterinarian with Animal Wellness Action. “All Oklahomans concerned about the rule of law and crime in our communities should support our brave sheriffs and prosecutors working to make our communities safer.” Pool is a rancher from Comanche County and former chief of the U.S. Army Veterinary Command.

The nonprofit animal activists also showcased Oklahoma state Rep. J.J. Humphrey issuing a welcome video for participants at an annual gathering of the World Association of Cockfighting Breeder.


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“I appreciate all that you’re doing worldwide to save this industry,” Humphrey says in the video. “You guys have got large farms; you’ve got buildings and industries…. Many places, states, other countries have coliseums and all kinds of things dedicated to either showing or fighting chickens. And again, we’re just proud to join with you to try to protect your investment.”

Oklahoma State Rep. J.J. Humphrey welcome video comments for participants at an annual gathering of the World Association of Cockfighting Breeders

Animal activist say it is a state and a federal felony to possess birds for fighting, and it is a federal felony to ship birds for fighting across state or national boundaries.

Oklahoma animal proponents Animal Wellness Action and The Center for a Humane Economy both agree that state lawmakers concluded their work for the year, and anti-cockfighting laws remain fully intact as cockfighters pivot and target sheriffs who enforce anti-cruelty laws.