Guam governor-elect wants cockfighting to remain legal

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — Cockfighting is an important Guam tradition that must remain legal, the U.S. territory's governor-elect said in vowing to work to repeal a likely ban imposed by the U.S. government.

While cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states, territories have been allowed to set their own rules on the activity, which involves placing bets on the outcome of fights between roosters with razors strapped to their legs.

The ban also will apply to territories if President Donald Trump signs a farm bill approved by Congress, which he's expected to do next week.

"Cockfighting has historical significance on Guam and continues to be a regulated practice today," said Gov.-elect Lou Leon Guerrero, who takes office Jan. 7. "Despite our community's collective efforts in expressing clear opposition to such a ban at the highest levels of government, we were once again ignored."

The island's annual Liberation Day carnival typically includes a cockfighting pit, Pacific Daily News reported Saturday. It's believed Filipino immigrants brought cockfighting to Guam during the early 1800s.

Annie Harvilicz, president of the Animal Wellness Foundation, has called staged animal fights "disgraceful and barbaric."

"It is insulting for apologists of dog fighting and cockfighting to claim there is a cultural right to conduct these activities," she said in May.

If the law is changed, those who sponsor or exhibit birds in a cockfight face a fine and a maximum prison term of five years. Attending a cockfight would be punishable by a fine and up to one year in prison. Bringing a child younger than 16 to a cockfight would be punishable by a fine and up to three years in prison.