Cockfighting Operation Uncovered in Norman

Nine puppies perish in barn fire; seventy-seven roosters found in “deplorable condition.”

January 30, 2024

A large-scale cockfighting operation was discovered in Norman on January 23 after the city’s police, fire, and animal welfare departments responded to a structure fire on a property south of Lake Thunderbird.

Norman Animal Welfare responded to a residence in the 12200 block of East Cedar Lane Road to assist the Norman Fire Department with rescuing nine puppies that were trapped in a barn fire, according to a press release issued by Norman Police Department. The 911 call came from someone living on the property who said their barn had caught fire and was out of control. Firefighters arrived on the scene and attempted to save the puppies, but, sadly, they perished. As officials worked the scene, animal control officers discovered a large rooster fighting operation located in another barn near the fire. Now a crime scene, Norman police immediately secured the area and obtained a search warrant.

Upon investigation, police and animal welfare officers discovered seventy-seven fighting roosters. “The seized roosters were found in deplorable conditions alongside evidence of brutal training and exploitation of the animals for fighting purposes,” Norman public information officer Sarah Schettler said in the release.

Police quickly seized the animals and shut down the illegal and inhumane activity. The case remains open as Norman police and animal control investigate. Questions about whether cockfighting paraphernalia or a fighting pit were found on the property, or whether the roosters belonged to the property owner, went unanswered as that information is part of the ongoing investigation. Criminal charges are currently pending the outcome of the investigation and will be referred to the Cleveland County District Attorney’s Office, Schettler said.

The seized animals are in the process of being transported to the Rooster Sanctuary at Danzig’s Roost, near Bennett, Colorado, where they will receive care and medical attention.

Why is cockfighting still an issue?

Cockfighting has been illegal in Oklahoma since 56 percent of state voters—over 500,000 people—passed State Question 687 in 2002. Under state law, it is a felony to instigate or encourage a cockfight, to keep places, equipment, or facilities for cockfighting, to service or facilitate a cockfight (such as acting as promotor or referee), and to own, possess, or train roosters with the intent of engaging them in cockfighting. It is a misdemeanor to knowingly spectate a staged cockfight.

A group of cockfighting enthusiasts have created a political action committee, the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission PAC, which offers political campaign contributions to lawmakers who are willing to help them decriminalize all cockfighting crimes to a misdemeanor. Governor Kevin Stitt received public backlash in November after taping a video greeting played at the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission's annual legislative rally in McAlester.

Kirkpatrick Policy Group has partnered with another animal wellbeing organization, Animal Wellness Action Oklahoma, to thwart the cockfighters’ efforts at the State Capitol. The Norman cockfighting bust is emblematic of a growing problem for Oklahoma, said Kevin Chambers, director of Animal Wellness Action Oklahoma. “I’ve been tracking cockfighting in Oklahoma for over forty years, and the recent growth of these illegal activities in our state is alarming,” Chambers said. “Oklahoma has become known as the ‘cockfighting capital’ of the U.S. Cockfighters are traveling from all over the U.S. and Mexico to engage in illegal animal fighting and gambling in our state. Some are even moving here because they see Oklahoma as hospitable for animal fighting. We have to put a stop to this trend.”

According to a March 2023 Sooner Survey poll, 87 percent of respondents said that cockfighting should be illegal, while only 8 percent opposed that idea. “There are few issues that unite Oklahomans more than their belief that cockfighting should be illegal,” said pollster Pat McFerron, president of Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates. “Not only do Oklahomans want cockfighting to be illegal, but they want it to be a felony.”  

Broken down into smaller demographics, 87 percent of registered Republicans and 90 percent of registered Democrats polled favor keeping cockfighting illegal. Additionally, 88 percent of urban voters and 87 percent of voters living in the state’s seventy-one rural counties share the same belief. “Fully 77 percent of voters said they would be inclined to vote against anyone advocating for a lower criminal classification for cockfighting, and 52 percent said they would definitely vote against that candidate,” McFerron said.

Poll results like this are a glaring indicator of how Oklahomans feel about cockfighting, said Kirkpatrick Policy Group volunteer board member Louisa McCune. “Nothing polls like cockfighting. The only thing state voters dislike more is flag burning. Cockfighting has no place in our society.”

However, enforcement of state cockfighting laws seems scant as prosecutions have been rare. This cruel practice is associated with a host of other crimes, such as illegal gambling, drug trafficking, gang activity, illegal weapon sales, and violence. Last summer, a former director of the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission, Chance Campo, was charged in Carter County District Court along with seven others with felony crimes related to illegal cockfighting. According to court records, Carter County Sheriff’s deputies, acting on a tip, broke up a cockfight in progress, and cockfighters fled into nearby woods. Several dead or severely injured roosters at the fight were reported by deputies. Campo still awaits trial on the felony charge.


Kirkpatrick Policy Group is a non-partisan, independent, 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization established in 2017 to identify, support, and advocate for positions on issues affecting all Oklahomans, including concern for the arts and arts education, animals, women’s reproductive health, and protecting the state’s initiative and referendum process. Improving the quality of life for Oklahomans is KPG’s primary vision, seeking to accomplish this through its values of collaboration, respect, education, and stewardship.