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U.S. Supreme Court Leaves in Place USVI, Puerto Rico Cockfighting Ban

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is leaving in place a federal law that bars cockfighting in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The high court on Tuesday turned away a challenge to the law. As is typical, the high court did not explain why it declined to take the case.

Congress in 2018 changed a federal law that had permitted cockfighting in the territory. Individuals and organizations involved in cockfighting challenged the law, arguing that Congress had exceeded its powers in applying the ban to Puerto Rico. They noted that “cockfighting is deeply ingrained in the island’s history, tradition and culture.”

Cockfighting was introduced into the territory by the Spanish in the 16th century and Puerto Rican law calls it a “cultural right of all Puerto Ricans.” Puerto Rico estimates cockfighting supports more than 11,000 jobs and brings about $65 million into the territory’s economy annually.

Two lower courts had sided with the federal government and said Congress acted appropriately.

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