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Cockfighting Ban Poised To Take Effect In USVI, Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON — A few lines in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 would make cockfighting illegal in the U.S. Virgin Islands under the massive 2018 Farm Bill compromise reached recently between House and Senate negotiators.

In June, the Senate version of the bill did not include language to extend the federal ban on cockfighting to the USVI, Puerto Rico and the other U.S. territories.

During the negotiations between the House and Senate, the House bill – which eliminates certain exceptions in order to extend the cockfighting ban to states and territories – prevailed.


Restrictions on cockfighting are part of the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act, one of several bills included as amendments to the Farm Bill.

The PACE Act “ensures that long-standing federal restrictions on dogfighting and cockfighting apply to U.S. territories,” Animal Wellness Action said.

“This is the fifth time the federal animal fighting law has been upgraded in the last 16 years, and these new provisions will allow for a crackdown on cockfighting and dogfighting in American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” the group stated in a press release.

Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett voiced her opposition to the bill in May.

“Cockfighting, like horse racing, is a long-standing recreational activity in the U.S. Virgin Islands with historical and cultural significance to many Virgin Islanders,” Plaskett said. “I do not support banning cockfighting in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I understand the concerns of those opposed to cockfighting and believe regulatory processes and educational outreach provide the best means of addressing those concerns. Outlawing cockfighting in the Virgin Islands will only create an underground industry, which can prove problematic for local stakeholders and local law enforcement.”

Because the bill is a compromise piece of legislation, favoring the Democrats’ version, it is likely to pass the House and Senate and become law.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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