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In a victory for birds used in cockfights, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit just affirmed a ruling that Congress has the authority to ban animal fighting in U.S. territories, where this cruel bloodsport is still common.
It’s a felony in the U.S. to be directly involved in animal fighting, and a federal misdemeanor to be a spectator, yet it has remained prevalent and legal in some U.S. territories.
Over the past two decades, Congress has acted multiple times to address animal fighting, most recently in 2018 when a loophole that allowed cockfighters in U.S. territories to continue was closed with language from the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act’s inclusion in the Farm Bill. This update clarified that prohibitions on animal fighting should be applied in all jurisdictions, including U.S. territories.
Both Puerto Rico and Guam have tried to challenge this, but they’ve been shut down repeatedly by federal courts.
In October 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a petition from Puerto Rico to review lower court judgments that upheld the ban, arguing that Congress had exceeded its power by applying the ban there.
Now, a similar appeal brought by an individual in Guam challenging a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Guam affirming the ban has also been shut down, this time by the Ninth Circuit.
While culture and tradition have been used as defenses of this barbaric spectacle, there’s no justification for this type of cruelty. Roosters, who are pitted against each other to fight to the death, may be given drugs, have razors attached to their legs to inflict maximum damage, and are forced to continue even after they’ve suffered horrifying injuries. Those who don’t survive are tossed like trash. Not only is cockfighting extremely barbaric, but it also poses a threat to public health and is often associated with other criminal activities.
We’re thrilled that Congress has acted to extend the ban to U.S. territories and also that the courts continue to uphold it and hope that cockfighting will soon become a relic of the past wherever it still exists.
To find out more about how to protect animals from cruelty visit our Justice for Animals campaign