Cockfighting ban challenge in US territories dismissed

HONOLULU (AP) — A judge dismissed a lawsuit by a man in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands challenging a ban against cockfighting in U.S. territories.

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, said in a lawsuit that he’s been involved in cockfighting since childhood.


In 2018, former President Donald Trump signed a law banning all animal fighting in the territories. Prior to the law, cockfighting had been illegal in the 50 states but not in territories.

The ban intrudes on the internal affairs of the territory by criminalizing a “popular and traditional recreational activity, and by imposing a moral and cultural standard that has not prevailed there through local democratic process,” the lawsuit said.

U.S. District Judge Ramona Manglona dismissed the lawsuit in a ruling Thursday that said the cultural practice of cockfighting in the territory doesn’t outweigh federal interests.

Salas intends to appeal the ruling, his attorney Joseph Horey said in an email.

Cockfighters should “stop hacking up animals for illegal gambling and the thrill of watching the bloodletting,” Wayne Pacelle of Animal Wellness Action said in a statement.

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