Cockfighting is getting federal attention in the Northwest. The Oregonian reports indictments accusing 63 people of taking part in a vast blood sport operation, staging dozens of cockfight derbies in rural outposts across Oregon and Washington the past two years. Each of the derbies featured a series of cockfights, with promoters arranging bouts and taking cuts of about 10 percent. “Pitters” handled birds in the fighting pits, referees called the fights, concessionaires hawked beer and food, and spectators made side bets. Fighting birds that won all their bouts — often crippling or killing opponents with knives or gaffs attached to their legs — were declared winners, and top purses sometimes reached into the tens of thousands of dollars.
U.S. Attorney Karin Immergut, Oregon’s chief federal prosecutor, called the case as the largest of its type in the Northwest and the region’s most expansive investigation into alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act. “Cockfighting is a brutal sport, and it also has strong ties to other kinds of criminal activities, such as gambling and drug dealing,” she said. “It carries serious public health risks, and it’s a classic case of cruelty and abuse of animals.” More than 500 law enforcement officers and support staff took part in the investigation. Last year’s high-profile case against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick for dogfighting marked a turning point, said U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), introducing Americans to the nature of blood sports.