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Matter of Agustin Ortega-Lopez

The Board held that a conviction for unlawful animal fighting under 7 U.S.C. § 2156(a)(1) is categorically a crime involving moral turpitude.

First, the Board reiterated that to involve moral turpitude, a crime must have two essential elements—a culpable mental state and reprehensible conduct. The Board found that 7 U.S.C. § 2156(a)(1) meets both requirements: (1) the statute requires that the offender “knowingly” sponsor or exhibit an animal for fighting, and a mens rea of “knowingly” meets the scienter requirement; and (2) the conduct involved is reprehensible because it involves the intentional infliction of often-fatal harm on animals purely for entertainment. In reaching this conclusion, the Board noted that amendments and expansions to the law since its enactment in 1976 reflect an increasing national consensus against animal fighting, as do similar laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Finally, the Board noted that the respondent had not shown a realistic probability that the statute has been applied to conduct not involving moral turpitude.