Commentary: Unfortunately, it’s animal fighting season in our state


Unfortunately, it’s animal fighting season in the Pacific Northwest. The Washington state Gambling Commission encourages reporting of animal fighting to help stop these terrible acts.

Our area has seen an influx of animal fighting, especially cockfighting.

In the past week, our special agents assisted in a federal case against La Nuestra Familia, where hundreds of roosters from Washington locations in Zillah and Outlook were seized. Luckily, at least 40 of the roosters were re-homed.

Cockfighting involves money, drugs and gangs. Cockfighting derbies equal thousands of dollars exchanged during fighting events. Birds are drugged to enhance their performance, keeping them aggressive. A bird’s combs and waddles, the skin under their beaks and atop their heads, are lanced off. Some birds have their spurs amputated from their legs for the installation of a sharp gaff or knife.

Over the past few years, we have served search warrants on animal fighting, one a Port Orchard cockfighting ring based off of several tips. Two cockfighting operators were arrested, 27 guests detained, along with over $35,000 in cash and 300 fighting roosters. Since then, we’ve had busts in several areas, including near Yakima and Snohomish, where bikers would exchange heroin while also fighting dogs.

One operation had our agents encounter a rooster described as “Foghorn Leghorn.” He was 4 feet tall with a massive wingspan. Other fighting roosters scurried away, but “Foghorn” was ready to attack any human in its steroid-induced rage.

Our agents focus on the gambling component of an animal fighting operation. The overall investigation involves local law enforcement and animal control. Fighting dogs cannot be rehabilitated due to their aggressive nature. Nor can the birds be placed into the food supply. So, they are euthanized.

Attending an animal fighting event is also a felony.

The public’s attention on animal fighting wanes as they do not understand how it directly affects them.

When dogs are trained to fight, a methodology exists to create constant aggressive behavior. Starvation. Drugs. Tortured with acid or beatings. It also includes using weaker dogs as “bait.” Tossed into the ring for the aggressive “champion” dog to destroy. Many of these weaker animals are your neighborhood’s pets, friendly dogs kidnapped right out of a homeowner's backyard.

We want to educate the public on why animal fighting is cruel. It requires more eyes and ears toward spotting the signs of illegal animal fighting so we can eliminate the practice from our area.

How do you spot a potential animal fight? Lots of traffic in remote areas. Crowds huddled in a barn, cheering loud. Birds tethered to a barrel to keep them aggressive, their combs and waddles removed. Numerous dogs sporting fighting scars, puncture wounds, each one separated and tethered by a heavy chain. The yard will have several crop circles limiting where chained dogs roam, a spring pole for the dog to hang while strengthening their jaw. Coyotes aren’t the only area apex predator killing pets.

None of these are absolutes to determine animal fighting. However, we encourage tips if illegal activity is suspected. Because money is involved in animal fighting, they are associated with assaults, robbery and even murder. The signing of HB 1961 into law, which our agency supported, is a good first step toward eliminating animal fighting. 

Anonymous tips can be sent to our agency here,

— Gary Drumheller has served with the Washington State Gambling Commission for 34 years, working as an undercover agent, field supervisor and now as the agency’s deputy director.