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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 19, 2009

Kauai police consider charges after major cockfight bust

By Diana Leone
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

LIHU'E, Kaua'i Kaua'i police are reviewing possible charges after seizing more than 100 roosters and $70,000 in cash in a raid Sunday on a large cockfighting operation north of Kapa'a.

More than 300 people attended the cockfight but police made no arrests in the 10 a.m. raid, Police Chief Darryl Perry said yesterday. However, "several felony and misdemeanor charges are pending review," Perry said.

Police collected as evidence more than 100 roosters, $70,000 in cash, 240 metal gaffs, numerous wooden crates used to transport the animals and a small amount of marijuana, Perry said in a news release. The gaffs are metal blades attached to the fighting chickens' legs to make them more lethal.

Attendees at the alleged "three-cock derby" included Kaua'i residents and those from other islands, but it wasn't clear if birds had been brought from other islands, police Lt. Eric Shibuya said.

Attending a cockfight is not a crime.

"The significance of this operation cannot be overstated," Perry said. "Illegal gambling has a nexus with drug trafficking, money laundering, domestic violence and a general decaying of family and community values, not to mention the cruelty and suffering inflicted on these animals. KPD will not relent in our efforts to bring this type of illegal activity to a stop."

Kaua'i Humane Society Director Becky Rhoades said 20 of the roosters confiscated had life-threatening wounds and were euthanized, while 99 remain in custody.

This was the third, and largest, cockfighting raid in which the Kaua'i Humane Society has assisted police, Rhoades said.

Cockfights were in progress and 15 roosters were dead when 13 Kaua'i police officers arrived, Shibuya said.

Rhoades said the condition of the injured birds was "horrible."

"Practices such as cockfighting and dog fighting cause acute suffering and physical harm to animals and desensitizes both children and adults to the value of life and should be eliminated," Rhoades said.

Police said possible charges include cruelty to animals, promotion of gambling in the first or second degree, possession of gambling records and possession of gambling devices.

Perry said he supports a bill now at the Legislature that would prohibit the possession of gaffs (Senate Bill 1194, S.D. 1), but would like its sanctions to include jail time. The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, but no hearing is set.

Sen. Gary Hooser, D-7th (Kaua'i, Ni'ihau), said he voted against the bill in the Senate "because cockfighting is already against the law both state and federal and I believe we should just enforce the laws we have now."

"If the community wants the police to crack down on cockfighting, or marijuana or driving on the beach, then that's what the police should do," Hooser said. "I don't want to second-guess the police. I have full faith and confidence in Chief Perry."

Pat Royos, vice president of the 1,700-member Hawai'i Game Breeders Association, said she hopes the House committee will refuse to hear the bill.

"It is our culture and has always been our culture, from the Hawaiian side and also the Filipino side," said Royos, who comes from both heritages and lives on O'ahu.

"Why get after the chicken-fighters. ... For policemen to say it's bad for families and all that, little children like us when we were small were brought up with cockfighting," said Royos, who has been actively testifying on behalf of lesser penalties for cockfighting.

Royos doesn't consider the sport cruel, countering that the humane societies that argue against it "kill cats and dogs every day."

She said there's no more gambling around cockfighting than other sports. "It's like anything else. If you go golfing there's gambling, bowling, football. ... So it's not all about gambling."

Reach Diana Leone at dleone@honoluluadvertiser.com.