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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cockfighters Guarding Honolulu’s Hen House

There would be widespread public outrage if a city, say, hired sex offenders to operate a child day care center, or hired dogfighters to run an animal shelter. It seems absurd but the local government in Honolulu, Hawaii, appears to be going down this path.

For the past nine years Honolulu officials have paid publicly professed cockfighters a total of $480,000 in taxpayer dollars to respond to loose and nuisance fowl complaints. In the past, city officials have even stated that these contractors are most suited for the job because they are cockfighters—they know bird behavior the best, and have existing relationships with other fellow rooster-owning cockfighters. This despite the fact that cockfighting is a crime in Hawaii, a felony in 39 other states and a federal felony to possess or transport birds for fighting.

CockfightingSurely the people who strap razor-sharp knives to roosters’ legs, pump them full of drugs to heighten their aggression, and watch them hack each other to pieces because they are titillated by the bloodletting, are not the ones who are in the best position to care for and re-home these creatures.

Aside from the horrific cruelty, animal fighting goes hand in hand with a range of criminal activities such as illegal gambling, drug distribution, illegal firearms possession, child endangerment and often, human violence. When partnering on the announcement of The HSUS’s animal fighting reward program in Hawaii, former U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo stated that of every dollar bet on cockfighting, “a substantial portion of it will go into the pocket of those who are tied to organized crime in Hawaii.”

These same city contractors are leaders of the Hawaii state affiliate of a cockfighting front group called the United Gamefowl Breeders Association and led efforts last year to introduce a bill to recognize cockfighting as a cultural activity. The measure was rightfully killed by the state House of Representatives but not before it gave Hawaii an embarrassing black eye in the national press.

Now these same individuals have been profiled in the newest issue of “Pit Games,” a glossy cockfighting magazine published in the Philippines.

While the prior administration failed to act, there is new hope. The city’s new administration, under the direction of Mayor Peter Carlisle (who also served as the former Honolulu city prosecutor), can finally take action since the contract is up for renewal on November 1, and the city’s managing director has assured us that he is investigating our complaint. The HSUS is working to make sure this contract is not extended. Not one dollar of taxpayer money should ever have gone to self-professed cockfighters.

Animal fighting is a major problem in Hawaii. Just last week there were reports of a suspected dogfighting case in Honolulu involving a dog believed to be used as “bait” to train fighting dogs. City officials surely wouldn’t contract dog control services to known dogfighters, and they shouldn’t prop up cockfighting with city resources either.

It’s time for more government accountability and a crackdown on conflicts of interest—and time to put cockfighters in jail, not on the city payroll.

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