Animal Fighting: Related Cases

Case name Citationsort descending Summary
Mejia v. State 681 S.W.2d 88 (Tex. App. 1984).

Rooster fighting case. Testimony from the defendant's witness, a sociologist that argued cockfighting is not generally thought of as an illegal activity, was irrelevant in cruelty to animals conviction. Statute is not unconstitutionally vague.

Phillip v. State 721 S.E.2d 214 (Ga.App., 2011)

Defendant was sentenced to 17 years imprisonment after entering a non-negotiated guilty plea to 14 counts of dogfighting and two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals. Upon motion, the Court of Appeals held that the sentence was illegal and void because all counts, which were to run concurrently, had the maximum prison sentence of five years.

Silver v. United States 726 A.2d 191 (D.C. App. 1999)

Appellants were each convicted of cruelty to animals, in violation of D.C. Code Ann. §   22-801 (1996), and of engaging in animal fighting, in violation of §   22-810. On appeal, both appellants contended that the evidence was insufficient to support convictions of animal cruelty, and of animal fighting. The appellate court found that the proof was sufficient. Each appellant also contended that his convictions merged because animal cruelty was a lesser-included offense of animal fighting. The appellate court found that each crime required proof of an element that the other did not. Appellants' convictions did not merge.

Rogers v. State 760 S.W.2d 669 (Tex. App. 1988).

Dog fighting case. Where the dog fighting area was in an open section of woods near the defendant's home, police officers were not required to obtain a search warrant before entering the defendant's property because of the "open fields" doctrine.

32 Pit Bulldogs and Other Property v. County of Prentiss 808 So.2d 971 (Miss. S.C. 2002) While a criminal trial regarding alleged dog-fighting was pending, the Circuit Court, Prentiss County, ordered the humane euthanization of 18 of 34 seized pit bulldogs. The alleged dog owner appealed. The Supreme Court held that allegations the dogs had been trained to fight, could not be rehabilitated as pets, and posed serious threat to other animals and people, related to the "physical condition" of the dogs, as statutory basis for humane euthanization. Affirmed.
Commonwealth v. Craven 817 A.2d 451 (Pa. 2003)

The issue before the Court in this consolidated appeal was whether the trial court properly determined that 18 Pa.C.S. § 5511(h.1)(6), which criminalizes an individual's attendance at an animal fight "as a spectator," is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.  Specifically, appellees contended that the statute criminalized "mere presence" at a dog fight.  The Supreme Court disagreed, finding the evidence showed appellees were active spectators at the fight (as seen in the videotape evidence).  The court concluded that the statute is constitutionally sound, thereby reversing the lower court's decision that the statute imposed strict liability on mere presence.

People v. Cumper 83 Mich. App. 490 (Mich. 1978)

Defendants were convicted of being spectators at a fight or baiting between dogs and appealed, charging that the "spectator" portion of the statute was impermissibly vague and unconstitutionally overbroad. The court found that the statute was constitutional because it punished attendance as a spectator at an event legitimately prohibited by law and defendants had fair notice of the conduct proscribed. The defendants also claimed that there was insufficient evidence however, the court found ample evidence upon which the jury rendered their decision.

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.

Minter-Smith v. Florida 864 So. 2d 1141 (Fla. 2003)

Defendant was convicted of unlawfully owning, possessing, keeping or training a dog or dogs with intent that such dog engage in dogfighting and he appealed. The Court of Criminal Appeals held that: (1) statute under which appellant was convicted was not unconstitutionally vague; (2) testimony of investigator was sufficient for jury to conclude that defendant was in violation of the statute that was not unconstitutional on ground that it was ex post facto as applied to defendant; (3) evidence as to poor conditions of dogs and their vicious propensities was relevant to issue of defendant's intent to fight the dogs; and (4) evidence gained by police officer pursuant to search warrant was not inadmissible. Affirmed.

McNeely v. U.S. 874 A.2d 371 (D.C. App. 2005) Defendant McNeely was convicted in a jury trial in the Superior Court of violating the Pit Bull and Rottweiler Dangerous Dog Designation Emergency Amendment Act.  On appeal, t he Court of Appeals, held that the Act did not deprive defendant of fair warning of the proscribed conduct, as the defendant here was required to know that he owned pit bulls in order to be convicted under the Act; and the prosecutor's improper comment was rendered harmless by the trial court's curative instructions.
People v. Bergen 883 P.2d 532 (Col. Ct. App. Div. III 1994)

Defendant, a journalist, attempted to film a dogfight for an investigative story on dogfighting following the passage of a Denver ordinance forbidding the ownership of bull terriers (pitbulls).    Defendant videotaped two separate fights and dogs "training" by running on treadmills.  After the story aired, public outcry lead to a police investigation as to the source of the dogfighting footage, which lead to the arrest of the defendant and her cameramen for dogfighting and perjury.

Claddie Savage v. Prator 886 So.2d 523 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2004)

A Parish Sheriff informed game clubs the parish ordinance against cockfighting would be enforced, despite the fact that cockfighting tournaments had been held at the game clubs since 1991.  The game clubs filed for and received a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the parish ordinance.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court decision.  Reversed by Savage v. Prator , 921 So.2d 51 (La., 2006).

Edmondson v. Oklahoma 91 P.3d 605 (Okla. 2004)

Petitioners sought relief from a temporary injunction for the Respondents, which prevented petitioners from enforcing the statute banning cockfighting.  The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction and held that the statute did not violate the Oklahoma State Constitution, and was not unconstitutionally overbroad.  Relief granted for petitioners.

Savage v. Prator 921 So.2d 51 (La. 2006)

After being informed by the Caddo Sheriff's Office that a 1987 Parish ordinance prohibiting cockfighting would be enforced, two organizations, who had held cockfighting tournaments since the late 1990s and the early 2000s, filed a petition for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. After the trial court granted the organizations' request for a preliminary injunction, the Parish commission appealed and the court of appeals affirmed. Upon granting writ of certiorari and relying on the home rule charter, the Supreme Court of Louisiana found that local governments may authorize or prohibit the conduct of cockfighting tournaments within municipal boundaries. The case was therefore reversed and remanded to the district court with the injunction being vacated.

Savage v. Prator 921 So.2d 51 (La., 2006)

Two Louisiana "game clubs" filed an action for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against parish commission and parish sheriff's office after being informed by the sheriff that an existing parish ordinance prohibiting cockfighting would be enforced. The clubs contended that the ordinance was violative of the police power reserved explicitly to the state (the state anti-cruelty provision is silent with regard to cockfighting).  The First Judicial District Court, Parish of Caddo granted the clubs' request for a preliminary injunction.  The Supreme Court reversed the injunction and remanded the matter, finding that the parish ordinance prohibiting cockfighting did not violate general law or infringe upon State's police powers in violation of Constitution.

Snead v. Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Pennsylvania 929 A.2d 1169 (Pa.Super., 2007)

This Pennsylvania case involves cross-appeals following a jury trial in which defendant SPCA, was found liable for euthanizing the dogs belonging to plaintiff Snead, who was awarded damages in the amount of $154,926.37, including $100,000 in punitive damages. The facts stemmed from a seizure several dogs at a seemingly abandoned property owned by Snead where Snead was arrested on dog fighting charges, which were then dropped the next day. However, Snead was not aware that the charges were dropped and that the dogs were therefore available to be reclaimed. The dogs were ultimately euthanized after Snead went to reclaim them. On appeal, this court first held that the SPCA does not operate as a branch of the Commonwealth and therefore, does not enjoy the protection of sovereign immunity or protection under the Pennsylvania Tort Claims Act. The court held that there was sufficient evidence presented for Snead's Sec. 1983 to go to the jury that found the SPCA has inadequate procedures/policies in place to safeguard Snead's property interest in the dogs. As to damages, the court found the there was no evidence to impute to the SPCA evil motive or reckless indifference to the rights of Snead sufficient for an award of punitive damages.  

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. 

Lee v. State 973 N.E.2d 1207 (Ind.App. 2012)

An attendant of a dog fight was convicted of a Class A misdemeanor under section 35-46-3-4 of the Indiana Code. On appeal, the defendant-appellant argued that the statute was unconstitutionally vague and that the statute invited arbitrary law enforcement, which violated the Due Process clause of the U.S. Constitution. Though the appeals court found the defendant-appellant had waived her constitutional claims by not filing a motion at the bench trial, the appeals court found her claims lacked merit. The defendant-appellant’s conviction was therefore upheld.

Hernandez-Gotay v. United States 985 F.3d 71 (1st Cir. Jan. 14, 2021) Plaintiffs filed suit to enjoin the enforcement and challenge the constitutionality of Section 12616 of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (“Section 12616”), which bans the “sponsor[ship]” and “exhibit[ion]” of cockfighting matches in Puerto Rico. The district court upheld Section 12616 as a valid exercise of Congress's Commerce Clause power. On appeal here, the court first determined whether the plaintiffs had sufficient standing to challenge the law. It concluded that plaintiff Ángel Manuel Ortiz-Díaz, the owner of two cockfighting venues and a breeder and owner of more than 200 gamecocks, has standing to challenge Section 12616. Ortiz faces a credible threat of prosecution under Section 12616 because he regularly sponsors and exhibits cockfighting matches. Finding standing, the court considered plaintiffs' claim that Congress exceeded its authority under the Commerce Clause in enacting Section 12616. The court found that cockfighting is an activity that substantially affects interstate commerce and Congress passing Section 12616 was a legitimate exercise of Commerce Clause power. Finally, plaintiffs contend that Section 12616 infringes on their First Amendment freedoms of speech and association. In rejecting this argument, the court held that plaintiffs failed to identify the necessary "expressive element" in cockfighting activities that would render it subject to First Amendment protections and, even if they made such a showing, Section 12616 is a permissible restraint on such speech. Finally, nothing in Section 12616 infringes on the associational right to assemble since it does not prevent individuals from gathering to express their views on cockfighting. The judgment of the district court was affirmed.
Sentencia C-1192, 2005 C-1192/05 Decision C-1192/05 decides on a claim of unconstitutionality against Articles 1, 2, 22 and 80 of the Taurine Regulatory Statute ley 916 of 2004. In this occasion, the court upheld the constitutionality of this law confirming bullfighting as an artistic expression allowed by the Constitution: “A manifestation of Colombia’s diversity, as intangible good that symbolizes one of the many historical-cultural traditions of the Nation.” The Court stated that since bullfighting is a cultural manifestation of the nation, children do not need to be protected from this practice. The Court believes “children should be provided the opportunity to attend these events so that they can learn and judge for themselves if bullfighting is an art form, or an outdated violent practice. For that reason, the statute does not violate the fundamental rights of children. The court also held that bullfighting is not part of the interpretation of Article 12 that corresponds to the prohibition of torture. The text of the norm speaks about violence and cruel treatment as an “anthropological vision of the human being” the court asserts. With this decision, the Constitutional Court affirms that animals, in this case bulls, are not entitled to any rights. The court considered tradition and culture of a higher value than animal protection.
R (on the application of Patterson) v. RSPCA EWHC 4531 The defendants had been convicted of a number of counts of animal cruelty in 2011, to include unnecessary suffering pursuant to Section 4, and participation in a blood sport under Section 8 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Mr Patterson was found to have breached an attached disqualification order under Section 34 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, on which this appeal is based. The order covered all types of animals for a period of five years. This prohibited him from owning, keeping, participating in the keeping of, or being a party to an arrangement under which he would be entitled to control or influence the way in which animals are kept. A number of animals were found and seized at the home. The appeal was allowed on the basis that Mr Patterson was not entitled to control or influence the way in which the animals were kept by his wife on the facts.
Sentencia C-041, 2017 Sentencia C-041, 2017 Sentencia C-041 is one of the most important court decisions on bullfighting. On this occasion, the court held unconstitutional Article 5 of Ley 1774 of 2016 that referred to the Article 7 of the Statute of Animal Protection. Article 7 contains the seven activities that involve animals for entertainment that are exempted from the duty of animal protection. The practices permitted correspond to rejoneo, coleo, bullfighting, novilladas, corralejas, becerradas and tientas (all variations of bullfighting), cockfighting and all the related practices. Even though the court held that the legislature had fallen into a lack of constitutional protection towards animals, and stated that bullfighting was cruel and inhumane, it deferred the effects of its sentence and gave Congress a two-year period to decide whether bullfighting and the other exception established in Article 7 of the Statute of Animal Protection will continue to be legally allowed. If after this period, the Congress has not legislated on the matter, decision C-041, 2017 will take full effect and bullfighting along with all the practices established in Article 7 will be considered illegal.
Sentencia C-666, 2010 Sentencia C-666/10 The Constitutional Court decided on an unconstitutionality claim against Article 7 of the Statute of Animal Protection Ley 84 of 1989 that corresponds to the exceptions to the duty of animal protection. This decision established the conditions that must be met for the exceptions of Article 7 to apply. Put in different words, through Decision C-666, the court limits the scope of the legality of bullfighting, establishing certain requirements. In its holding, the Court stated that the seven practices in Article 7 would not violate the Constitution, so long as they were done within the following parameters: (1) As long as it is understood that these animals should, in all cases, obtain special protection against suffering and pain during the execution of these activities. This exception allows the continuation of cultural expressions and entertainment with animals, so long as exceptionally cruel acts against these animals are eliminated, or lessened in the future in a process of adaptation between cultural expressions and duties of protection to animals; (2) These practices can only take place in municipalities and districts in which the practices are themselves a manifestation of a regular, periodic and uninterrupted tradition, and therefore their execution responds to a certain regularity; (3) These practices can only take place during occasions in which they have commonly taken place and in the municipalities and districts where they are authorized; (4) These are the only practices that are authorized to be part of the exception in Article 7 to the constitutional duty to protect animals; and (5) Municipal authorities cannot economically support the construction of installations for the exclusive execution of the activities listed in Article 7 with public funds.
Sentencia C-889, 2012 Sentencia C-889/12 Decision C-889 grants constitutional value to animal protection. It establishes the parameters for tradition and social roots. It limits the scope of bullfighting in the national territory. On this opportunity, the court decided on the constitutionality of Arts. 14 and 15 of the statute of Bullfighting Statute. It establishes the criteria that must be met in order for bullfighting to be legal: (1) Bullfighting has to meet the legal conditions established for public shows in general; (2) Bullfighting must meet the legal conditions established in the statute that regulates the taurine activity, Ley 916 of 2014; and (3) Bullfighting must comply with the constitutional conditions, restrictions, and limitations established in decision C-666 of 2010 to satisfy the mandate of animal welfare, animal protection, and to avoid suffering and pain. It must also satisfy social ingrain, location, opportunity, the condition of no financial funds, and exceptionality.
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.

State v. Claiborne State v. Claiborne, 505 P.2d 732 (Kan. 1973)

Animals -- Cruelty to Animals -- Cockfighting -- Gamecocks Not Animals -- No Statutory Prohibition Against Cockfights -- Statute Not Vague. In an action filed pursuant to K. S. A. 60-1701 in which the state seeks a construction of K. S. A. 1972 Supp. 21-4310 (cruelty to animals) making its provisions applicable to cockfighting, the record is examined and for reasons appearing in the opinion it is held: (1) Gamecocks are not animals within the meaning or contemplation of the statute. (2) There is no clear legislative intent that gamecocks be included within the category of animals protected by the statute. (3) The statute does not apply to or prohibit the conducting of cockfights. (4) As construed, the statute is not so vague, indefinite and uncertain as to violate the requirements of due process.

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.

RSPCA v. McCormick [2016] EWHC 928 (Admin) It was held that for an animal fight to have taken place, contrary to Section 8 of the Animal Welfare Act, the following must have occurred: a "protected animal" must have been placed with another animal in an environment where the ability of both to escape is restricted and controlled by some person or persons connected with that activity or by some artificial restraint. ‘Placed with’ is to be construed as a ‘matter of normal language.’

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