Puerto Rico Forced to Cancel Cockfights

Laura N. Perez Sanchez, AP, January 5, 2008

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Puerto Rico halted all bird imports Thursday after a rare outbreak of avian flu in nearby Dominican Republic, where authorities killed more than 100 chickens, including fighting roosters that tested positive for the lethal virus.

The cancellation of the fights could cost the industry millions of dollars in lost revenue from people who come to watch or enter their birds, said Carlos Quinones, the cockfighting director for the island’s sports and recreation department.

“The matches were already organized, and people had already requested their visas and made hotel reservations,” said Quinones, who added that fights involving foreign roosters can draw as many as 900 people.

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The island has more than 100 licensed cockfighting pits where roosters peck and kick each other with plastic spurs. About 200,000 fights are held each year, with annual ticket sales of up to $12 million, Quinones said.

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