Quigley, Mace Urge USPS to Stop the Illegal Transport of Animals for Fighting
U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Representative Nancy Mace (D-SC) led a letter urging the U.S. Chief Postal Inspector to improve enforcement against the widespread transport of animals for illegal fighting purposes using the United States Postal Service. The letter was signed by 34 House Democrats and Republicans.
Specifically, the letter requests that USPS develop a comprehensive strategy that includes detailed plans on how it will stop illegal trafficking of animals, specifically birds, for fighting purposes and what barriers it faces in doing so, and report to Congress expeditiously on the development and specifics of that plan.
“The U.S. has banned any interstate or foreign transport of animals for fighting purposes for nearly 20 years, yet the problem still persists. We must take action to better enforce our laws and end this immoral practice,” said Rep. Quigley. “With evidence pointing to the U.S. mail as the primary means of transport for these animals—it is past time for the USPS to treat the illegal shipment of fighting animals as a high priority and work to end this once and for all.”
“We need to stop the shipment of animals, for fighting purposes, via the U.S. Post Service,” said Rep. Mace. “This barbaric and cruel practice needs further investigation and those responsible need to be held accountable. I urge the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to work more aggressively to interdict illegal trafficking of fighting animals through U.S. mail.”
“It is shocking to place live animals in a box with no food or water and send them on a long, multi-flight journey – in some cases an 8000-mile journey from North Carolina to Guam – to end up in a cockfight,” said Wayne Pacelle, President of Animal Wellness Action. “We are not sure what’s worse – the flight or the fight.”
According to a review of shipping records obtained by Animal Wellness Action, the Guam Department of Agriculture allowed more than 500 shipments of fighting birds into the territory from state-based cockfighters. There were more than 60 individuals who collectively shipped more than 10,000 fighting animals to the island, with reports indicating nearly exclusively transport through the U.S. mail.
A copy of the letter is available HERE and the text of the letter is available below.
November 19, 2021
Gary L. Barksdale
Chief Postal Inspector
U.S. Postal Inspection Service
475 L'Enfant Plaza, S.W.
Washington, D.C., 20260
Dear Inspector Barksdale:
We write with concern regarding USPS’s role in transporting animals, specifically birds, for illegal fighting purposes.
Since 2002, the U.S. has prohibited any interstate or foreign transport of animals for fighting purposes. Congress established felony-level penalties for those crimes in 2007, including provision that specifically prohibits any person from using the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) to promote or in any other manner further an animal fighting venture. Finally, in 2019, Congress extended this prohibition against animal fighting to U.S. territories. The Supreme Court recently denied a petition from cockfighting interests in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico that challenged the federal government’s authority to ban cockfighting everywhere in the U.S., including the territories.
Despite the constitutional soundness and strong penalty provisions discouraging transporting animals for fighting purposes, abundant evidence suggests that this practice is still widespread. In addition to private ground and commercial air transport, evidence suggests that the USPS is also being used for illegal trafficking. According to a review of shipping records obtained by Animal Wellness Action, the Guam Department of Agriculture allowed more than 500 shipments of fighting birds into the territory from state-based cockfighters. There were more than 60 individuals who collectively shipped more than 10,000 fighting animals to the island, with reports indicating nearly exclusively transport through the U.S. mail.
The federal law also bans the trade in cockfighting implements – the knives and gaffs that are strapped to the combatants’ legs to enhance the bloodletting at the fights. According to a September 2021 story in the El Paso Times, “customs officers at the Memphis air cargo hub seized 5,029 spurs, knives or gaffes used in cockfighting during the past two fiscal years, compared with seizures of 50 pieces during the previous three — an increase due in large part to Neipert's focus on targeting the contraband.” While those fighting implements came into the U.S. by means other than USPS carriers, there is a brisk trade in fighting implements within the U.S. and Animal Wellness Action has gathered evidence that the U.S. mail is the primary means of transport for this contraband.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection have taken significant steps in recent years to improve enforcement work in the stopping the transport of animals for fighting purposes. The Department of Justice and the USDA’s Office of Inspector General have also ramped up their work against animal fighting. We believe it is time for USPS to renew its focus on preventing the transport of animals for this deadly sport.
We request USPS develop a comprehensive strategy that includes detailed plans on how it will stop illegal trafficking of animals for fighting purposes and what barriers it faces in doing so, and report to Congress expeditiously on the development and specifics of that plan. Additionally, given the pattern of cockfighting activity in Guam, there should be specific focus on preventing illegal trafficking of birds there. We understand that training and investigations will be required for your agents in Guam given that some birds may be legally transported through the U.S. mails there. We hope that you and your team will treat the illegal shipment of fighting animals as a high priority going forward. Thank you for your attention to this serious matter.
Mike Quigley, Member of Congress
Nancy Mace, Member of Congress