Large Cockfighting Derby Discovered in Adair County

More than one hundred cockfighters convene near Stilwell on February 3; law enforcement fails to intervene, animal activists say.

February 12, 2024

As the Oklahoma Legislature prepares to consider legislation to decriminalize cockfighting statewide, animal rights activists have discovered another large cockfighting operation that occurred despite nearby law enforcement presence.

The derby, including more than one hundred cockfighters, took place on February 3 inside a metal building in a remote area near Stilwell in eastern Oklahoma, said Kevin Chambers, a native of Adair County and the Oklahoma state director for Animal Wellness Action, a Washington D.C.-based animal rights nonprofit. The event lasted uninterrupted for more than eight hours even though the Adair County Sherrif’s Office was alerted to its presence. “Despite three days’ advance notice, Sheriff Jason Ritchie did nothing to investigate or shut down a cockfighting event that attracted 100 –200 cockfighters for a day-long extravaganza of animal cruelty and illegal gambling just ten miles from his office,” Chambers said.

According to aerial drone surveillance conducted by Showing Animals Respect & Kindness (SHARK), an animal welfare nonprofit that works to expose incidents of animal cruelty, dozens of vehicles could be seen parked around the cockfighting building inside a wooded, rural area located in Lyons Switch, a community of about 300 people. SHARK founder and president Steve Hindi said he learned about the event several days in advance and alerted the Adair County Sheriff’s Office, providing GPS coordinates for the pit building and a schedule of events for the day. “I don’t know what more I could have given them,” Hindi said.

On the day of the cockfight, Chambers and Hindi went to the Adair County Sheriff’s office to show them photos of the illegal activity. An employee asked them if they owned any property in Adair County, said Chambers, before deputies agreed to investigate. Hindi then went to a public park to legally put up his drone again, and Chambers went to a parking area near the cockfighting pit to await law enforcement. “Neither of us saw any intervention by the deputies. The cockfight went on unimpeded into the night,” Chambers said.

Kirkpatrick Policy Group called and emailed the Adair County Sheriff’s Office to request information about the incident, and to request an interview with Sheriff Ritchie, but as of publication no response had been received.

Hindi said he has documented cockfights all over the country, and this was one of the largest he has monitored. “These are organized criminals, and law enforcement must stop their illegal activities without fear or favor.”

Enforcement of state cockfighting laws—Oklahoma voters made cockfighting a felony in 2002—has been mixed even though the blood sport is associated with a litany of other crimes, such as illegal gambling, drug trafficking, gang activity, illegal weapon sales, and violence, Chambers said. “Cockfighters are travelling all over from 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. This is outrageous, and it’s time for a relentless campaign by law enforcement to shutter the cockfighting pits and animal trafficking and rid Oklahoma of this crime wave.”

When cockfights take place in dedicated buildings that were built years or even decades ago, there is a good chance law enforcement knows what goes on there, Hindi said. “Show me a long-running cockfight at a static building, and I will show you a corrupt police force.”

This episode marks the second time in recent weeks that evidence of cockfighting has been uncovered in Oklahoma. Norman police and animal welfare officers seized seventy-seven game fowl at a residence on January 23 while responding to a structure fire. Many of those birds had scars resulting from fighting or were being mutilated in preparation for fighting.

To help combat cockfighting and dogfighting, Animal Wellness Action has launched a new reward program that offers cash compensation for information leading to arrests and convictions, or for tips on the location of planned or occurring animal fighting in the state. The organization is offering $2,500 for such information. To submit tips, email


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.