Court Dismisses Challenge Against Cockfighting Ban in U.S. Territories

U.S. District Court for the Northern Marianas Islands (NMI) Chief Judge Ramona Manglona ordered the permanent dismissal of the lawsuit filed by former CNMI representative Andrew Salas to lift the U.S. law prohibiting cockfighting in the U.S. territories, particularly in the CNMI. The decision comes after over a month since Judge Manglona took the matter under advisement.

In a 15-page decision, Judge Manglona stated, “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.” The case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning that it cannot be refiled.

Saipan resident Andrew Sablan Salas, who served in the House of Representatives in the commonwealth’s Legislature and previously was Secretary of Commerce in the territory, filed the case last June.

Animal rights organization Animal Wellness Action lauded the dismissal of the case.

Wayne Pacelle, president of AWA, said in an email, “We formulated the 2018 law and we have now worked to introduce a new anti-animal fighting bill just last week in Congress.  We had intervened in the Guam and Puerto Rico challenges to the Agricultural Improvement Act and were prepared to intervene in this case if Mr. Salas had survived the [U.S.] government’s motion to dismiss.”

He added, “Two prior challenges to the 2018 federal law against staged animal fighting were met with unanimous disapproval by five federal courts, and a sixth court has added its voice. Cockfighters should heed the law and stop hacking up animals for illegal gambling and the thrill of watching the bloodletting. The activity he refers to as a hobby and a tradition is a federal felony.”

Joseph Horey, Salas’s attorney, said in an email that Salas intends to appeal the ruling.