VICTORY: Court rejects challenge to federal cockfighting ban in Puerto Rico, Guam and other U.S. territories

By on October 29, 2019 with 4 Comments

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

A federal court has rejected an attempt to stop Congress from closing a loophole that allowed cockfighters to continue operating in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico and Guam, despite the fact that cockfighting is a felony in all U.S. states.

Cockfighting organizations had challenged the ban, but a federal district court for the District of Puerto Rico ruled today that Congress was well within its power to make amendments earlier this year to the Animal Welfare Act in order to clarify that an existing ban on cockfighting in all U.S. states applies equally to U.S. territories.

The court rejected all of the plaintiffs’ claims, including an argument that the law violates principles and rights protected under the U.S. Constitution, such as the right to free speech and association. “A live-bird fighting venture does not fall within any expressive or non-expressive protected conduct,” the court said.

The court also declined to stay implementation of the law while the plaintiffs seek an appeal of this ruling, meaning the law will take effect as planned on December 20 this year.

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice had filed a brief strongly defending the expansion of the law.

Cockfighting is a despicable business that pits one animal against another for gambling and entertainment, and it is a felony in all U.S. states. But unless U.S. territories are included in the ban, we cannot wipe out these bloody spectacles entirely. Puerto Rico and Guam are a hub for American cockfighting, with enthusiasts openly raising birds and participating in fights. Cockfighting arenas are even located near airports to attract tourist dollars.

A ban on cockfighting can also protect communities from crimes associated with animal fighting, like illegal drug dealing and human violence, and from disease transmission risks, including bird flu and diseases that can decimate poultry flocks. Moreover, it’s also what a majority of Puerto Ricans want – a 2017 poll of 1,000 registered voters found that two out of three Puerto Ricans favor a ban on cockfighting.

For all of these reasons, and for the sake of the millions of birds who are now trapped in a gruesome industry that profits off their injury and death, we applaud the court’s ruling. These protections for roosters are long-overdue and well-deserved, and we are excited that very soon they will be in effect in every U.S. jurisdiction, with no exceptions.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Animal Rescue and Care, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Victor says:

    You will ever stop our culture,you just made a whole industry go into the clandestine world nobody won’t stop what we love to doif you are so worry about animal rights start in your house stoping hunting, stoping rodeo,stoping the law enforcement and military using dogs as human shields,what we suppose to do with a whole race of bird kill them because your cuteness cant handle nature, feel free to contact me if you want to debate you will never understand game breed birds, keep your 2 cents back in the mainland, get a translator because like a said you will never understand.

    • Dean says:

      This was long overdue and a step forward in the right direction to once and for all do away with this evil/wicked sport. For those who want to continue this so called ‘’cultural’’ tradition just understand there will be repercussions if you engage in the barbaric practice. Take your garbage sport to a place where it’s legal and not in our backyard!!

    • dw about it says:

      I agree 🙌🏼

  2. Jesus says:

    What are you going to do in respect to Boxing that leave thousands of them permanently or mentally affected.Lets protect the people of a multimillion industry that doesn’t care anything about them when they are useless.Cockfighting in Puerto Rico is legalized and under strict supervised rules.

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