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August 8, 2011

The HSUS Asks Federal Appeals Court To Uphold Federal Animal Fighting Law

The HSUS submits brief demonstrating that cockfighting is routinely an interstate activity.

The Humane Society of the United States filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals asking the court to uphold the nation's federal animal fighting law. The case involves an appeal brought by members of a cockfighting ring who were convicted under the federal law. Though the cockfighters contend that the federal animal fighting provisions are unconstitutional because cockfighting is allegedly not an interstate activity, The HSUS’ brief demonstrates that the people, birds and equipment involved in the bloodsport routinely cross state lines and cockfighting has a substantial impact on interstate commerce. The underlying prosecution was the end result of a 13-month undercover investigation in South Carolina which ultimately netted nearly 60 defendants who were later charged with illegal cockfighting and gambling.  

“Cockfighting is a vicious bloodsport, and a serious federal crime,” said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, vice president & chief counsel for animal protection litigation for The HSUS. “The twisted proponents of this sickening animal cruelty have gone to court three times to strike down the nation’s animal-fighting law, and lost three times. They need to throw in the towel.”

The United Gamefowl Breeders Association, a national cockfighting front-group that routinely brings challenges to anti-cockfighting laws, also submitted an amicus brief in this case. The UGBA and its affiliates benefit from unlawful cockfighting. At the trial in this case, several witnesses testified that they were required to purchase a membership in the South Carolina Gamefowl Breeders Association, the local affiliate of UGBA, before they could enter the cockfighting arena. Indeed, in his opposition to the UGBA’s status as amicus in this case, the Assistant United States Attorney who prosecuted the case stated that “the evidence at trial implicates the UGBA in potential money laundering activity - the testimony of [several witnesses] establish that the UGBA received proceeds of the illegal gambling business surrounding the cockfights.”

This is not the only local affiliate of UGBA implicated in illegal animal fighting. Just this year, investigators from The HSUS infiltrated a cockfighting pit in Alabama where they were required to purchase a membership card from the UGBA’s Alabama chapter prior to entry.

The Humane Society of the United States is represented in this matter pro bono by attorneys from the law firm of Hunton & Williams, LLP, as well as by lawyers from the The HSUS’ Animal Protection Litigation section.    

Media Contact: Katie Jarl, 301-258-1483; kjarl@humanesociety.org

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