Animal Fighting: Related Cases

Case namesort descending Citation Summary
State v. Hartrampf 847 P.2d 856 (Oregon 1993)

Defendant appealed a conviction for attempted involvement in animal fighting, arguing that the statutes at issue were unconstitutionally vague.  Since the defendant admitted he knowingly was among spectators at farm hosting a cockfighting event, the Court of Appeals held that a person of common intelligence could discern that defendant's conduct constituted a substantial step toward involvement in animal fighting.

State v. Nelson 219 P.3d 100 (Wash.App. Div. 3, 2009)

Defendants in this Washington case appeal their convictions of animal fighting and operating an unlicensed private kennel. They contend on appeal that the trial judge abused her discretion by allowing an expert from the Humane Society to render an opinion on whether the evidence showed that the defendants intended to engage in dogfighting exhibitions. The Court of Appeals held that the judge did not abuse her discretion in admitting the expert's opinion. The opinions offered by the expert were based on the evidence and the expert's years of experience. The court found that the expert's opinion was a fair summary and reflected the significance of the other evidence offered by the prosecution. Further, the expert's opinion was proffered to rebut defendants' contention that the circumstantial evidence (the veterinary drugs, training equipment, tattoos, etc.) showed only defendants' intent to enter the dogs in legal weight-pulling contests. Defendants convictions for animal fighting and operating an unlicensed private kennel were affirmed.

State v. Scott 2001 Tenn. Crim. App. LEXIS 561 The appellant pled guilty to one count of animal fighting, one count of cruelty to animals, and one count of keeping unvaccinated dogs, and asked for probation. The trial court denied the appellants request for probation and sentenced him to incarceration. The appellant challenged the trial court's ruling, and the appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision to deny probation, stating that the heinous nature of the crimes warranted incarceration.
State v. Weeks 1992 Ohio App. LEXIS 1090 Defendant was convicted of violating Ohio's animal fighting statute, and appealed. He challenged the conviction, arguing that the statute was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. The court upheld the conviction. The court ruled that although a portion of the statute was overly vague and broad, that portion was severable from the remainder. The court also held that defendant did not demonstrate that the statute was unconstitutional as applied to him.
State v. Woods 2001 WL 224519 (Ohio App. 10 Dist.) Defendant was indicted on three counts of aggravated murder, one count of attempted aggravated murder, one count of aggravated burglary, one count of aggravated robbery, and one count of kidnapping in an incident following a dogfight. Following a jury trial, d efendant was found guilty of aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and kidnapping. The court reversed and remanded the case to the trial court.
Stephens v. State 247 Ga. App. 719 (2001)

Defendant was accused and convicted of 17 counts of cruelty to animals for harboring fighting dogs in deplorable conditions. Defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence and the probation terms. The appellate court found, in light of the evidence, any rational trier of fact could have found the elements of cruelty to animals beyond a reasonable doubt. Further, defendant failed to overcome the presumption that the probation the trial court imposed was correct.

Texas Attorney General Letter Opinion 94-071 Tex. Atty. Gen. Op. LO 94-071

Texas Attorney General Opinion regarding the issue of whether staged fights between penned hogs and dogs constitutes a criminal offense. The Assistant Attorney General deemed these staged fights as violating the criminal cruelty laws.

U.S. v. Braddock Slip Copy, 2011 WL 327416 (C.A.4 (S.C.),2011)

Defendant-appellants appealed their convictions following guilty pleas to offenses relating to illegal cockfighting and gambling activities. On appeal, they challenged the denial of their motion to dismiss for selective prosecution or, in the alternative, for discovery in support of their selective prosecution claim. In particular, appellants contend that district court should have dismissed the indictment or granted leave to obtain discovery because they, as Caucasians, were prosecuted federally, while two Hispanic co-conspirators and thirty-six Hispanic people arrested in connection with another cockfighting ring in Hampton County, South Carolina, faced only state charges. The Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, found that appellants failed to show that they were similarly situated to the Hispanic defendants who were not prosecuted on federal charges.

U.S. v. Gibert 677 F.3d 613 (4th Cir. 2012) The primary question in this appeal was whether Congress exceeded its power under the Commerce Clause in enacting a criminal prohibition against animal fighting. Defendants were indicted, in violation of the Animal Welfare Act, for their roles in organizing, operating, and participating in “gamefowl derbies,” otherwise known as “cockfighting.” Upon the 4th Circuit’s review of the parties' arguments, it held that the animal fighting statute was a legitimate exercise of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause. It also held that the statute did not require the government to prove the defendants' knowledge regarding the particular venture's nexus to interstate commerce. Accordingly, the district court’s decision was affirmed.
U.S. v. Hackman 630 F.3d 1078 (8th Cir. 2011) Defendants appealed sentences arising out of a Missouri-based dog-fighting conspiracy. Each man pleaded guilty to conspiring to engage in animal fighting ventures in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, and one Defendant additionally pleaded guilty to engaging in animal fighting ventures in violation of 7 U.S.C. § 2156. When sentencing each defendant, the district court applied an upward departure provision found in the application notes to United States Sentencing Guidelines (USSG or Guidelines). Each appellant argued that his relevant conduct was not sufficiently cruel to warrant the upward departure. The 8th Circuit found, however, that the district court had properly considered conduct that was legally relevant to Defendants' sentencing under the Guidelines. The court also found that Defendants' conduct amounted to more than just possessing fighting pit bulls. Defendants bred, raised, trained, sold, and fought them knowing that the dogs would be allowed, if not required, to fight until severely injured or dead. Thus, the ordinary cruelty inherent in dog fighting justifies base offense level, while the extraordinary cruelty of Defendants' crimes separately justified the upward departure. The district court's judgment was affirmed.
U.S. v. Lawson 677 F.3d 629 (4th Cir., 2012) Defendants appealed their conviction of violating, and conspiring to violate, the animal fighting prohibition of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The Court of Appeals granted a new trial, but held, in part, that the AWA is a constitutional exercise of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause, and that the provision of different elements of the crime in jurisdictions permitting animal fighting does not violate equal protection rights under the Fifth Amendment. 
U.S. v. Stevens 533 F.3d 218, 2008 WL 2779529 (C.A.3 (Pa.),2008) Note that certiorari was granted in 2009 by --- S.Ct. ----, 2009 WL 1034613 (U.S. Apr 20, 2009). In this case, the Third Circuit held that 18 U.S.C. § 48, the federal law that criminalizes depictions of animal cruelty, is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. The defendant in this case was convicted after investigators arranged to buy three dogfighting videos from defendant in sting operation.  Because the statute addresses a content-based regulation on speech, the court considered whether the statute survived a strict scrutiny test. The majority was unwilling to extend the rationale of Ferber outside of child pornography without direction from the Supreme Court.  The majority found that the conduct at issue in § 48 does not give rise to a sufficient compelling interest.
Ware v. State 949 So. 2d 169 (Ala. Crim. App. 2006)

In this Alabama case, defendant Walter Tyrone Ware was indicted on six counts of owning, possessing, keeping, and/or training a dog for fighting purposes, and one count of possessing a controlled substance.  Police were dispatched to defendant's residence after receiving an anonymous tip about alleged dogfighting.  Upon arriving, police found a bleeding dog on the ground next to an SUV, a puppy in the SUV, and 22 more pit bull dogs in the backyard.  Most of the dogs were very thin or emaciated, and at least two dogs had fresh cuts or puncture wounds.  On appeal, defendant claimed that there was no evidence that he had attended a dog fight or hosted one.  However, the court observed that Alabama's dogfighting statute does not require such direct evidence; rather, a case was made based on evidence of training equipment, injured dogs, and the dogs' aggressive behavior exhibited at the animal shelter after seizure. 

White v. U.S. 601 F.3d 545 (C.A.6 (Ohio), 2010)

The Plaintiff-Appellants are citizens (show bird breeders, feed store owners, and game bird judges) who allege that the AWA amendments to § 2156 concerning animal fighting ventures have caused them various individual and collective injuries. The plaintiffs-appellants allege that these provisions are unconstitutional insofar as they constitute a bill of attainder; violate the principles of federalism contained in, inter alia, the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Amendments to the United States Constitution; and unduly impinge on the plaintiffs-appellants' First Amendment right of association, constitutional right to travel, and Fifth Amendment right to due process for deprivations of property and liberty. The district court dismissed the lawsuit for lack of Article III standing. The Sixth Circuit held that while economic injuries may constitute an injury-in-fact for the purposes of Article III standing, the plaintiffs' alleged economic injuries due to restrictions on cockfighting are not traceable only to the AWA. Additionally, because the AWA does not impose any penalties without a judicial trial, it is not a bill of attainder. The decision of the district court was affirmed.

Zuniga v. San Mateo Dept. of Health Services (Peninsula Humane Soc.) 267 Cal.Rptr. 755 (1990)

In this California case, the owner of a dog that had been seized pending criminal dogfighting charges sought a writ of mandate challenging a county hearing officer's decision finding that puppies born to the dog while she was impounded were dangerous animals. The trial court denied the writ. The Court of Appeal reversed and held that there was insufficient evidence that the puppies were “dangerous animals." The evidence received by the hearing officer relates mainly to appellant's actions and his mistreatment of the parent animal, and the only evidence relevant to the puppies' “inherent nature” was the observed aggressive behavior toward each other while caged together and certain possible assumptions about their nature from the condition and use of their mother.