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Is it Legal to Hold a Cockfight?

Simply put: Yes, it is illegal to hold a cockfight. In fact, cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states in America. So, the next time you want to go underground and watch a cockfight and possibly make some cash, you probably should just walk away from the opportunity or risk being arrested, charged with a crime, face prison time and likely monetary fines.

Understanding Cockfighting

Cockfighting is a blood sport wherein two roosters–bred for aggression–are placed in a small ring and encouraged to fight until one is killed (or dies from its injuries). Fights are often held in abandoned buildings, backyards, and even basements. Cockfighting can be considered one of the oldest spectator sports in the world. Indeed, cockfights have been happening as far back as when humans began recording history. It has been the subject in an episode of the popular TV show Seinfeld, and cockfighting has even featured in movies. Opponents of this past time note the sport’s brutality as well as the mistreatment of animals when being bred as fighters. Cockfights typically end with the death of one of the competitors; many fights include spurs attached to the cocks’ feet. Those who criticize cockfights also note that the sport is often ted to include other illegal activities—such as gambling or the drugging of the birds for heightened fighting ability and stamina.

Federal Law              

In 2002, the Animal Welfare Act of 1996 (AWA) was amended making it a misdemeanor crime to exhibit, ship, or sponsor birds for fighting. In 2007 AWA was amended again by President George W. Bush who signed the Animal Fighting Prohibition Reinforcement Act (AFPRA) into law. The changes increased the penalties for animal fighting violations under the AWA from a misdemeanor to a felony. The AFPRA also made it illegal to attach a knife, gaff, or other sharp instrument to the leg of a bird for fighting as well as knowing selling, buying, transporting, or delivering such a weapon in interstate or foreign commerce. In 2008, the Farm Bill (FB) increased animal fighting and possession of animal fighting instruments penalties from three to five years in prison and increased the monetary fines for violating the AWA.

State Law

Cockfighting arrest happened in several states in 2013—including Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Oregon, among other states—making national newspaper headlines. That same year, the state of Nevada made cockfighting a felony crime. While cockfighting is illegal across the United States, the penalties for violating the law differ. Also, some states go beyond just banning cockfighting by prohibiting other activities. Moreover cockfighting bills were introduced across 15 states in 2013, taking significant action to increase the penalties for cockfighting as well as increase the scope of prohibited acts that are related to the sport.

That being said, a dozen states legally allow the possession of a fighting cock despite the illegality of cockfighting. These states include Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah. 

Of note, cockfighting remains perfectly legal in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Contact Us Today

If you have questions about the illegality of something or have been hurt through no fault of your own, contact the Matt Pfau Law Group today. We can explain your rights and obligations under Nevada law.

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