Representatives of two animal rights organizations on Thursday asked North Carolina’s three U.S. attorneys to investigate people in the state believed to be engaged in illegal trafficking of fighting roosters.

The request was from Washington, D.C.-based Animal Wellness Action (AWA) and the Los Angeles Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF). A press release from AWA and AWF said North Carolina and a half dozen other states have become the key breeding ground for the world’s cockfighting industry.

The release identified men from Wilkes County as being among those engaged in illegal activities involving fighting roosters. The release didn’t indicate that they had been charged with committing any offenses.

“North Carolina is a hub of the cockfighting trade in the East, with key industry players illegally selling birds to Mexico, Guam, the Philippines and other far-flung destinations for combat,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of AWA, in press release from AWA and AWF.

“Cockfighters are knowingly violating federal laws that forbid these sales of fighting animals,” he added.

The release said data AWA and AWF obtained through the Guam Department of Agriculture detail more than 500 shipments of birds by 60 individuals from more than a dozen states to Guam, where more than 130 individuals purchased the birds for fights in the U.S. territory.

Is said the records show North Carolina was among the top five shippers in the nation to Guam, trailing only Oklahoma, California, Hawaii and Alabama in volume of birds transported there.

A federal law in effect since Dec. 20, 2019, forbids any animal fighting on Guam. It has been a federal felony to transport birds across state lines for fighting since May 2007.

All of North Carolina’s federal lawmakers, except Virginia Foxx and G.K. Butterfield, backed a 2018 amendment to the federal animal fighting law to ban animal fighting in the U.S. territories, including Guam.

The release from AWA and AWF said the shippers use the U.S. Postal Service to transport live birds, packing them into boxes and sending them in the cargo holds without food or water.

The press release said that current federal law, it is a crime to knowingly:

• sponsor or exhibit an animal in a fighting venture;

• attend an animal fighting venture, or knowingly cause an individual who has not attained the age of 16 to attend an animal fighting venture;

• buy, sell, possess, train, transport, deliver, or receive any animal for purposes of having the animal participate in an animal fighting venture;

• use the U.S. Postal Service, or any “written, wire, radio televisions or other form of communications in, or using a facility of, interstate commerce,” to advertise an animal for use in an animal fighting venture, or to advertise a knife, gaff, or other sharp instrument designed to be attached to the leg of a bird for us in an animal fighting venture…;”

• sell, buy, transport, or deliver in interstate or foreign commerce “a knife, a gaff, or any other sharp instrument” designed or intended to be attached to the leg of a bird for us in an animal fighting venture.

Cockfighting is a felony under N.C. law. Penalties for each violation of the federal law against animal fighting allows for a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for perpetrators, except for adults attending an animal fighting venture. Penalties for an adult in attendance are one year in prison and a $5,000 fine.

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