Federal Court Dismisses Challenge Against National Cockfighting Law

The federal ban on cockfighting took effect late in 2019 but the ban on transporting cockfighting birds across state and territorial lines has been in effect since 2007.

Andrew Salas, former CNMI local politician and executive agency official, who describes himself as a life-long cockfighter made a legal argument to invalidate the federal ban on cockfighting to the Northern Marianas Islands.

Salas argued that the anti-cockfighting provision of the Agriculture Improvement Act, enacted into law in 2018, reached too far in applying the prohibition to the CNMI as it is a cultural tradition. 

Chief U.S. District Judge Ramona Manglona dismissed the case with prejudice, determining that “the federal interests in regulating interstate commerce, preventing the spread of avian flu, and ensuring the humane treatment of animals outweigh the degree of intrusion into the internal affairs of the CNMI as it relates to the tradition of cockfighting.”

In December 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a ruling that says that the U.S. Congress has the authority to ban animal fighting throughout the United States and its territories.

Wayne Pacelle from the Animal Wellness Action said that “Mr. Salas is free to appeal, but he and other CNMI cockfighters should heed the law and stop hacking up animals for illegal gambling and the thrill of watching the bloodletting,” adding: “The activity he refers to as a hobby and a tradition is a federal felony.”

The 2018 anti-animal fighting Federal law made it a felony to operate a cockfighting venue or to participate in animal fights as well as transporting or receiving fighting birds, trading in fighting implements, or being a spectator at an animal fighting event. 

 Mr. Salas’s attorneys have vowed to appeal, this application would go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

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