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Federal Court Dismisses Challenge to New Federal Cockfighting Law

The Humane Society of the United States

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Humane Society of the United States is hailing a decision issued today by a federal district court in Ohio throwing out a lawsuit challenging the country's newly expanded federal animal fighting law.  The suit was brought by individuals aligned with the United Gamefowl Breeders Association — a national front group for criminal cockfighting rings — and claimed that the law infringes on plaintiffs' alleged constitutional rights to travel and associate for the purpose of fighting animals.

"We commend the Court for dismissing this frivolous and misguided attack on the federal Animal Welfare Act," said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, vice president & chief counsel for animal protection litigation and research for The HSUS. "Congress has rightfully cracked down on interstate and foreign commerce in fighting animals and weapons, especially in light of the violence, drug trafficking and other serious social ills that animal fighting brings to our communities."

The Gamefowl Breeders filed a similar suit in 2003, which was dismissed on all counts by a federal district court in Louisiana in 2005.

The Court today found that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring their challenge in light of the fact that all 50 states now ban cockfighting, and thus a ruling in their favor would not even help plaintiffs fulfill their desire to traffic in fighting animals and cockfighting paraphernalia. As explained by the Court:

Cockfighting is now illegal in all fifty states and in the District of Columbia. Thus, even if the federal prohibitions related to cockfighting were not in place, there is still no legal domestic market for cockfighting and its materials. Plaintiffs' pointing to the Animal Welfare Act as the cause of the purported lost revenue is thus insufficient, not only because it presents conclusory speculation as fact, but also given the existence of the overlapping state laws that serve to defeat the contention that federal law is the traceable cause of the economic injuries asserted.

President George W. Bush signed a new federal anti-animal fighting law in 2007, upgrading the federal penalties for illegal dogfighting and cockfighting from misdemeanor to felony status. Congress strengthened these laws again in July 2008, after the plaintiffs filed this case. It is now a federal felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, not only to fight animals, but also to possess or train animals with the intent to fight them.

The Humane Society of the United States is represented in the case pro bono by former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro of Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley in Columbus, Ohio, and Arnold & Porter LLP.

Copies of the decision, which was issued by the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, are available upon request.


The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 10.5 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.