Saipan Man Files Lawsuit To Challenge Cockfighting Ban in U.S. Territories

Saipan resident Andrew Sablan Salas filed a lawsuit in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to challenge the cockfighting ban in U.S. territories. Salas served in the House of Representatives in the commonwealth’s Legislatures and previously served as the Secretary of Commerce in the territory. Similar lawsuits were filed in Guam and Puerto Rico and did not meet any success.

In 2018, former President Donald Trump signed a law banning all animal fighting in U.S. territories, with the law taking effect in 2019. Before the law was signed, cockfighting had already been outlawed in the 50 states but did not include the U.S. territories.

In Salas’ lawsuit, he stated that he “desires and intends to resume raising roosters for cockfighting purposes” and to enter them into cockfights in the Mariana Islands. Salas further said, “The ban intrudes on the internal affairs of the Northern Mariana Islands by criminalizing a “popular and traditional recreational activity, and by imposing a moral and cultural standard that has not prevailed there through the local democratic process.”

Shawn N. Anderson, U.S. attorney for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, said, “We have no comment while this litigation is pending.”

Previously, in 2021, a panel of 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges ruled against a Guam businessman who filed a lawsuit in 2019 arguing that the cockfighting ban was unconstitutional. Puerto Ricans also filed a challenge stating that Congress exceeded its power in applying the ban to Puerto Rico however, this lawsuit was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, stated, “The Congress has determined that cockfighting is barbaric and inhumane and the federal courts have said the U.S. has the authority to take this action. This is settled law.”