Puerto Rico lawmakers look for legal options against federal cockfight ban
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico’s Legislature wants to take the U.S. government to court to stop it from putting an end to legal cockfighting on the island.
To that effect, New Progressive Party Rep. Michael Abid Quiñones and other majority lawmakers introduced Joint House Resolution 448 on Wednesday to order the Puerto Rico Justice Department to evaluate legal options to stop the federal government from banning the controversial sport on the island.
The resolution, co-authored by Reps. Joel Franqui Atiles, José “Che” Pérez Cordero and Urayoán Hernández Alvarado, orders the Justice Department to present in court the necessary legal remedies to challenge the ban.
The 2018 Farm Bill, which was enacted last month, bans cockfighting in all U.S. territories beginning in December this year. The ban makes it illegal to organize or attend an “animal fighting venture,” which includes cockfighting. It also prohibits anyone from buying, selling, possessing, training or transporting animals or sharp instruments to be used in animal fights.
Legal cockfighting ceased stateside in 2008 when Louisiana became the last state to abolish the practice, but it is still permissible in U.S. territories. In Puerto Rico, the sport has been officially allowed since 1933, but dates back to the 1700s, when the island was a Spanish colony.
The local lawmakers argue that cockfighting is duly regulated in Puerto Rico under Act 98 of 2007, known as the “Roosters Act of Puerto Rico of the New Millennium,” as well as by Regulation 7424. In addition, they say, the industry has an $18 million impact on the local economy and creates more than 27,000 direct and indirect jobs. Repealing it will worsen the island’s economic problems, they argue.
“The approval of this federal law negatively impacts the recovery of our economy. It is meritorious to use the resources of the Department of Justice to challenge this federal law and defend the Puerto Rican heritage and the cockfighting industry,” Quiñones Irizarry assured.
The push to ban cockfighting in U.S. territories was championed by Rep. Peter Roskam, (R-Ill.), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore), and the Humane Society, which characterizes cockfighting as animal cruelty that is often tied to criminal activity.
According to the Humane Society, even if the roosters are not made to fight to the death, as is the case in Puerto Rico, they may sustain severe injuries that could lead to death.