Animal Advocacy

Heat on Oklahoma Cockfighters

posted June 7th, 2020 by
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Heat on Oklahoma Cockfighters

Edmondson, Animal Wellness

Turn Up the Heat on Oklahoma Cockfighters

Rewards program announced for information leading to prosecution

by Emily Lang

OKLAHOMA CITY, June 6, 2020 — The Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF) and Animal Wellness Action (AWA) today announced a $2,500 reward for information resulting in successful prosecution of any individual for violating the federal law (7 U.S.C. § 2156) or the state law against animal fighting  

The announcement follows last week’s action by former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson formally requesting an investigation of illegal cockfighting activity in the Eastern District of Oklahoma.  Based on the organization’s extensive investigations, identifying that several of the top global shippers of cockfighting birds operate from the eastern part of the state, Edmondson and other leaders at Animal Wellness labeled Oklahoma “the cockfighting capital of the United States.”

Edmondson is co-chair of the National Law Enforcement Council, an arm of AWF and AWA. In a letter sent last week to U.S. Attorney Brian Kuester Edmondson provided results of an AWA/AWF investigation that showed a documented trail of shipments by the U.S. mail of animals from Oklahoma bound for Guam, a U.S. territory in the far western Pacific Ocean that had been a haven for animal fighting.  There is evidence that the shippers also moved birds to other global destinations – all in violation of federal law.

“Cockfighting is typically bound together with other illegal activities, such as gambling and drug use,” Edmondson said. “These are not the values held by Oklahomans, and this lawlessness should not be allowed to continue. While I sincerely hope U.S. Attorney Kuester is reviewing the results of the Animal Wellness investigation, we are also asking members of the public to come forward with information that could help root out this activity in our state.”

Anyone with information about illegal cockfighting activities can send information to [email protected]. Residents can also contact the appropriate U.S. Attorneys, the state attorney general, or county sheriffs or district attorneys. 

Under the federal anti-animal fighting law, it is a crime to:

  • Knowingly sponsor or exhibit in an animal fighting venture;
  • Knowingly attend an animal fighting venture, or knowingly cause an individual who has not attained the age of 16 to attend an animal fighting venture;
  • Knowingly buy, sell, possess, train, transport, deliver, or receive any animal for purposes of having the animal participate in an animal fighting venture;
  • Knowingly use the mail service of the U.S. Postal Service, or any “written, wire, radio televisions or other form of communications in, or use 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, or to promote or in any other manner further an animal fighting venture except as performed outside the U.S.;
  • Knowingly 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.

Penalties for each violation of any one of these provisions allows for a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for perpetrators, except for an adult attending an animal fighting venture. Penalties for an adult attendee are 1 year in prison and a $5,000 fine.  The state law, which took effect in 2003 after voters approved an initiative, bans fighting and possession and allows for up to 10 years in prison for violators.

An “animal fighting venture “involves a fight conducted or to be conducted between at least two animals for purposes of sport, wagering, or entertainment.

Prohibitions on attending on selling, buying, possessing, training, transporting, delivering, or receiving an animal in an animal fighting venture; attending an animal fighting venture; or trafficking in knives or gaffs for use on a bird have long applied to all U.S. territories. On December 20, 2019, these prohibitions are effective in the U.S. territories: sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal fighting venture or knowing using the mail service of the U.S. Postal Service, or advertising an animal for use in a fighting venture, to advertise a knife or gaff, or to promote an animal fighting venture.

“Federal agencies and officers have a duty to enforce our laws against the barbaric practices of cockfighting and dogfighting,” said Wayne Pacelle of the AWF. “But their good works depend on the cooperation and alertness of citizens. We ask people who know about illegal animal fighting activities to help us stop these forms of cruelty.”

Kirkpatrick Foundation Grant to PAAS

posted June 1st, 2020 by
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Kirkpatrick Foundation Grant to PAAS

The Peaceful Animal Adoption Shelter (PAAS) has received a spay/neuter grant from the Kirkpatrick Foundation. The grant will be used to help defray the surgical costs for pet owners in the Vinita and Tahlequah areas. To date, the PAAS Spay/Neuter program has “fixed” 3,500+ pets in northeast Oklahoma.

These funds wil be used to continue that program, a vital component of pet over­ population control.

PAAS is a member of the Common Bonds initiative. The goal is for Oklahoma shelters to have a 90% live release rate of adoptable pets by 2025. Thanks to this financial support, PAAS will continue to play a key role in pet over-population for northeast Oklahoma.

For information about Common Bonds, contact Kelly Burley, Executive Director at: Kelly.commonbonds @gmail.com

Felony Cockfighting Activity

posted May 27th, 2020 by
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Heat on Oklahoma Cockfighters

Former AG Asks U.S. Attorney to Prosecute

 

OKLAHOMA CITY, May 26,  2020 – Former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson is asking  U.S. Attorney Brian J. Kuester to investigate allegations of ongoing trafficking of birds to Guam for cockfighting, for illegally possessing fighting animals, and perhaps engaging in other conduct at odds with state and federal law.  Mr. Kuester, based in Muskogee, has jurisdiction for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.  

The request follows an investigation by Animal Wellness Action and Animal Wellness Foundation that revealed that three of the top five shippers of birds to Guam, covering a three-year period, reside in eastern Oklahoma.  AWA and AWF allege, based on their investigation, that Oklahoma “may be the cockfighting capital of the United States.”  Attorney General Edmondson asked District Attorneys for Cherokee, Haskell, and LeFlore counties to investigate the allegations as well and to bring charges as appropriate.

Those individuals are John and Brenda Bottoms of Gunner Gamefowl Farm in Heavener; Bill McNatt of Cherokee Game Farm in Stigler; and Darrell Trammel of Moody Farm in Tahlequah. 

“The Eastern District is fraught with individuals who have been involved in the global trafficking and fighting of birds,” Edmondson said. “It is a felony under state and federal law to buy, sell, deliver or own any bird with the intent that such bird shall engage in a cockfight, and that’s clearly what we’re seeing. The three individuals identified in this investigation brazenly defy law enforcement officers. This deserves the attention of law enforcement officers and prosecutors, and that’s what we’re asking for.”

Through public records requests to the Guam Department of Agriculture, AWF and AWA obtained nearly 2,500 pages of avian shipping records dated November 2016 to September 2019. These records detail approximately 750 shipments of birds from more than a dozen states to Guam. 

In these documents, shippers described over 8,800 of the shipped animals as “brood fowl.”  There is no legitimate explanation for this volume of shipments. First, Guam does not have a significant animal agriculture industry or a show-bird circuit. Second, the ratio of roosters to hens in these shipments of brood fowl was nearly 10 to 1 with some shipments being over 100 to 1. It’s difficult to think of any animal agriculture industry that requires more males than females. Since it’s the males that cockfighters conscript for fights, and with standard breeding protocols calling for those ratios to be inverted, any reasonable person would conclude that the purpose of these shipments was primarily for promoting the cockfighting industry, which is robust on the island.

“Oklahomans voted in overwhelming numbers to ban cockfighting 18 years ago,” said Louisa McCune, executive director of the Kirkpatrick Foundation, which supports a number of animal welfare causes. “The record of these illegal shipments indicates that we have a sizable cockfighting industry operating in Oklahoma. It’s our hope that law enforcement takes very seriously any and all crimes involving the abuse of animals, including the breeding, selling, and shipping of roosters used for an unconscionable blood sport.” 

There have been a number of prosecutions of cockfighters in the state, including the most recent action in January 2020, when county authorities arrested two people after investigators stumbled across a cockfighting ring east of Harrah.

“Cockfighters are still at it in Oklahoma, and we hope our investigation prompts local, state, and federal law enforcement authorities to pull this illegal business up from its roots,” said Wayne Pacelle, founder of Animal Wellness Action. “The practice is cruel and barbaric, and long-distance movements of the birds threaten to spread avian influenza and jeopardize animal and human health.” 

AWA and AWF announced a rewards program to run for an indefinite time that provides a $2,500 reward for any individual who provides critical information that results in a successful federal prosecution of an individual or set of individuals who violate the federal law against animal fighting. 

Edmondson is co-chair of the National Law Enforcement Council for AWA and AWF.  During his time as Oklahoma Attorney General, he defended the law from constitutional challenges brought by cockfighters.  In Edmondson v. Pearce, the Oklahoma Supreme Court determined in a unanimous ruling that the anti-cockfighting law represents a proper exercise of authority and that cockfighting and related activities are forbidden in the state.  Numerous federal courts have upheld the federal anti-animal fighting law as constitutional.

-Emily Lang

Breaking Ground – Ground Breaking

posted March 5th, 2020 by
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Breaking Ground – – Ground Breaking Results

 

Five years ago PAAS opened as a traditional shelter.  We discovered there were hundreds of dogs and cats who wanted to come to the shelter – but there were few people walking through the door to adopt.  It was a classic case of over supply in a saturated market.   We quickly had 50 dogs, 75+ cats and a waiting list of more than 150 dogs and 150 cats.  We had to think outside the box and find a new solution.   We looked at the situation as a market driven business.

PAAS 20200305

Breaking ground

Today PAAS is a transfer hub and spay/neuter clinic.  As I’m writing this, 30+ northeast Oklahoma pets are getting “fixed” at the clinic and on Sunday, 30+ homeless dogs from 13 municipal shelters will make the overnight trip to Dumb Friends League in Colorado.

The transition most assuredly did not happen overnight. It is difficult to change – – and transfer and spay/neuter clinics were not even discussed.

Thanks to donors and, especially the Cresap Family Foundation, Arnall Family Foundation and HSUS Pets for Life – since 2016 Vinita has exceeded 90% live release rate for dogs – a standard recognized by organizations such as PetSmart, Best Friends, Maddies Fund and others as Humane.  The Kirkpatrick Foundation has set a goal for Oklahoma to be a Humane State by 2025 for shelter dogs and cats.  For rural Oklahoma municipal shelters it can be a reality if, and it’s a big IF, there’s financial support to implement/expand a transfer program and establish a three year spay/neuter program for animals that bark or meow – – no questions asked.  This last one is as important as the transfer.

I recently had the opportunity to share our story with the Dean of the Oklahoma City University Law School.  As I told him, every time you have a spay/neuter clinic for 30 pets at least 30 dogs and 30 cats are “getting together” and in short order there will be lots of puppies and kittens.  Sooo you have to transfer – – but you also have to have consistent (ideally weekly) spay/neuter clinics to get ahead of the over population (ie flood).

It is possible …. It can be done….. PAAS has a business model that works for rural communities that face over populations of dogs and cats.  I could not be more proud of the PAAS team and the supporters and investors who believe in us.  It is rewarding, amazing and life-changing for us and the dogs and cats who come through our doors.

Saving Miss Daisy, the Shih tzu

posted February 23rd, 2020 by
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Saving Miss Daisy, the Shih tzu

Vicki’s Story:

I was working a vaccination clinic when 8 adorable Shih tzu puppies came for their shots.  I learned the owner of the momma dog did not want her so The Richardson Rexwinkle Birthing Center came to the rescue thanks to help from Attorney Jason who paid the surrender fee.

Miss Daisy

Poor little scruffy thing was filthy, matted, and her feet looked like she had dirty fuzzy slipper.  Her toenails curled under and were embedded in her foot pads. Her eyes were covered with dried, green gobs of gunk. Tom and I took her home, cleaned her eyes and painfully clipped her toe nails. was a trooper, for sure.

 

The next day she went to see Julie, who came in on her day off, to help relieve this baby’s suffering. She groomed her and she looked so cute. When we got her home, she was strutting her stuff. I posted her pictures on facebook and a gentleman from Texas named Don (who we knew) contacted me and the rest is history.  He had just lost his beloved Shih tzu that he’d rescued from Hurricane Katrina 13 years ago.  He will drive up from Texas, pick her up and she’ll be in her new home the end of March.

 

Please follow us at www.paasvinita.com ,  Facebook:  PAAS Vinita  YouTube:  Pass Vinita

Rural Rescue

posted February 23rd, 2020 by
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Rural Rescue Reality

 

Based on where PAAS started (2015) and where PAAS is today (2020)…this is what we’ve learned.

 

Out-of-state transfer is vital – 5,300+ Oklahoma dogs now live in Colorado.

Spay/neuter – – consistent – – weekly – – ongoing makes an impact – 3,000+ pets fixed.

Funding – – angel investors who believe in a mission and support it financially

Rural Rescue

It works!!!!

 

  • Facebook is our go-to-for communication with our municipal shelter partners via a closed group.

 

  • Transport leaves every Sunday night, unless Mother Nature acts up between Vinita, Oklahoma and Denver, Colorado (destination Dumb Friends League)

 

  • Consistent spay/neuter clinics at PAAS with funding, weekly. With more funding – two to three days per week.  And, yes they would quickly fill up.  With weekly ones – we’re booked at least a month in advance.

 

  • PAAS was designed as a “traditional” shelter. Today we’re a transfer hub and spay/neuter clinic.  We’re making an impact, a difference and this prototype will work in rural towns.
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