[[quoteright:300:[[Webcomic/{{Xkcd}} http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/meerkat.jpg]]]][[caption-width-right:300:[[AltText Gorilla, yes. Adorable golden retriever, yes. But it says nothing about meerkats.]]]]

->''"Ain't no rule says a dog can't play soccer."''
-->--''[[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Soccer Dog: The Movie]]''

The underdog team brings in an adorable animal to play for them (often exploiting the fact that rules of the game do not ''explicitly'' forbid this) and wins the big game.

The classic setup: The new kid in town joins the local sports team populated by the RagtagBunchOfMisfits. What they lack in skill, they make up for in TeamSpirit, but on paper the next match looks hopeless. The OpposingSportsTeam is in town and gunning for the championship. Their coach is a DrillSergeantNasty and the [[JerkJock town bully]] is their star player.

Just then, the power of plot reveals that the new kid owns TropeyTheWonderDog, an animal with astounding abilities which could make him a contender in this very sport! He petitions the team coach to try Tropey, where the dog's natural aptitude makes him an instant success. Come the night of the big game, out trots Tropey -- the other team may rant and rave, but there's nothing they can do about it. Why? [[LoopholeAbuse Ain't no specific rule agin' it!]] This is the Animal Athlete Loophole.

[[RealityEnsues But in reality]], such a move would be stymied by other rules. Age restrictions, for one: Try finding an arthritis-free dog large enough and old enough to play outside Little League Baseball. Then there are registration requirements: a legal name and school affiliation. Obeying the rules of play are a whole other issue: A dog is physically incapable of dribbling a basketball and there is no known ape or monkey with legs properly developed to kick a soccer ball.

Still, family films aplenty adopt the premise and take it to the heartwarming if illogical conclusion.

Dogs and [[EverythingsBetterWithMonkeys monkeys]] are usually the go-to animals for these kinds of film, but any size animal will fit through the loophole. A particularly rare but still notable inversion a human applying to a sport that is not meant for one (at least on paper) and exploiting this loophole if asked.

Animal Athlete Loophole is a subtrope of LoopholeAbuse. Overlaps with ArtisticLicenseSports. If the events of the plot cause someone to ''add'' a specific ban on Animal Athletes, it's an ObviousRulePatch.


* A beer commercial from several years back had two groups of horses playing football in an open field. One team scores and kicks the extra point. Two humans are watching this against a wire fence. One guy says "Do they always do this?" The other guy: "Nah...they usually go for two."

[[folder:{{Anime}} and {{Manga}}]]
* Used, surprisingly, in ''Anime/SamuraiChamploo''. In a baseball game against the {{Eagleland}} Navy, ninja Kagemaru is a little shorthanded. Even after conscripting Mugen, Jin and Fuu, he needs five more players. So he gets a really old man (who dies in his first at-bat), Fuu's pet flying squirrel Momo, and a dog. When one of the American sailors objects, the umpire consults a rulebook, and rules that "I can't find anything about dogs in the rulebook. He's good." [[note]]Fun fact: One of the Americans was named Abner Doubleday, who has a lasting belief that he invented the game.[[/note]]
** The pitcher proceeds to get rid of the dog by hitting it with a pitch. (He had no other choice - the dog's so small that the strike zone is laughable.) The dog runs off with a yelp, and Kagemaru concedes, "Of course, he's ''still'' a dog."
* In one chapter of the manga ''{{Manga/Kochikame}}'', Ryotsu is asked to play on a hockey team. The opposing team has a polar bear and penguin playing, and point out that there is no rule saying they can't.
* ''Anime/RuneSoldierLouie'': A ''horse'' wins a race, as the rules did not specify that the winner has to be a human, and "The great god Mylee never discriminates against anyone."

* In the ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'' of Creator/AAPessimal, ediiceering has become a competitive, if extreme, sport. A trade skill taught by Assassins and Thieves, what was originally the Boggis-Downey Cup For Edificeering Excellence (a competition between the two Guilds) has expanded to encompass teams from the Guild of Steeplejacks, the Post Office (whose postmen get ''everywhere'' to deliver mail), the Extreme Sports Society - and the City Watch. This last team is prone to LoopholeAbuse and fielded Gargoyles. In Llamedosian Rules Fifteen-a-Side [[UsefulNotes/RugbyUnion football]], the Watch pointed out there was no specific law that all players had to be human. therefore the core of its scrum was a Golem and two Trolls. And the University's edificeering side was centred on the Librarian...

* ''Film/SoccerDog'' and ''Soccer Dog: European Pup'': Ain't no rule that says a dog can't play soccer!
* The ''Film/AirBud'' series: There's no rule that a dog can't play basketball/football/soccer/baseball/volleyball/skateboard!
* The ''MostValuablePrimate'' series: Ain't no rule that says a chimp can't play hockey/skateboarding/snowboarding!
* ''FunkyMonkey'': Ain't no rule that says a monkey can't play football!
* ''Ed'': Ain't no rule that says a chimp can't play baseball!
* ''Gus'': Ain't no rule that says a mule can't play football!
* ''The Horse That Played Center-Field'': Ain't no rule that says... you know what.
* Subverted in ''ComicStrip/{{Peanuts}}'', where there ain't no rule that says a dog can't play baseball... but he plays just like every other member of the team (and it's ''[[ButtMonkey Charlie Brown's]]'' team), and Snoopy sometimes gets mistaken for a short kid with a big nose. Except in the TV specials ''Charlie Brown's All Stars'' and ''It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown'', where in order to get into an organized league, the team must abide by its rules against animal players. In the latter, Lucy was not allowed as a girl, but [[RealLifeWritesThePlot Little League Baseball had changed its policies]] just in time for Lucy to play.
* ''Film/{{Babe}}'': Ain't no rule that says a pig can't compete in a sheep herding dog trial! Actually, that one's more a trick of semantics, as the trial registration form requires "Name of Animal". The narrator even mentions that had it been "Name of Dog", [[WillNotTellALie they couldn't have entered Babe]].
* In the film version of ''Film/StuartLittle'', most of the boats in the race are being operated by remote control. Guess there ain't no rule that says a mouse can't be sailing one.
* ''Film/RacingStripes'', a kids' movie about a zebra that wants to be a racehorse. To quote Wiki/TheOtherWiki's summary, ''It is similar in the style to the 1995 movie ''Film/{{Babe}}'', in that the protagonist is a talking animal who lives on a farm and succeeds at an activity not expected of his species.'' While there's a greater similarity between horses and zebras than there are in most examples of the trope, even most ''horses'' can't compete as racehorses, because races are generally limited to a very specific breed of horse (thoroughbreds, quarter horses, ''etc.'') and these terms are minutely defined (often even to how the animal was ''conceived''); funny as it might sound, there's no way you could enter a zebra as a [[ExactWords "quarter horse"]] (with the implication being that [[ComicallyMissingThePoint the other three quarters are zebra]][[note]]The "quarter horse" is actually a breed of horse that is exceptionally good at sprinting short distances, so that stands a good chance of beating other breeds in a race of a ''quarter'' mile or less[[/note]]).
* Inverted in ''Film/SpaceJam''--the Toons challenge the tiny aliens to a game of basketball, not expecting them to cheat and steal the talents of actual basketball players, necessitating them to add Michael Jordan to the team.
* In ''Francis Goes to West point'', FrancisTheTalkingMule gets a spot on the West Point football team as a placekicker.
* WesternAnimation/{{Turbo}} is entirely built around the concept of a snail competing in a race meant for cars.

* In the ''Leaping Lizards'' entry of the Literature/NintendoAdventureBooks series, the Mario brothers and company are competing in the Mushroom Games. Why? The king of the Mushroom Kingdom has been [[BalefulPolymorph turned into a rabbit]] and the prize is a magic whistle that will change him back. This rabbit form however is advantageous; depending on what choices you make, you can have the king in rabbit form complete the high jump event and win big! Of course, the Koopas complain about this selection not being fair -- which turns out to be bizarre as [[{{Hypocrite}} they themselves cheat throughout the games]].

* ''The Sheep-Pig'' by Creator/DickKingSmith: Ain't no rule that says a pig can't compete in a sheep herding dog trial! Actually, that one's more a trick of semantics, as the trial registration form requires "Name of Entry", saving Babe's owner from the implicit lie that would have been involved had it been "Name of Dog".
* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'': No rule saying an orangutan can't play [[Discworld/UnseenAcademicals football]]! Since the wizards are writing the rules of football themselves as they go along, of course, there wouldn't be. The climax relied on this (for non-ape reasons), with the twist that there actually was a rarely-used rule allowing it. It was implied there soon be an ObviousRulePatch.
** Naturally, the Librarian was already in the habit of using this same Loophole to safely peruse books of arcane secrets [[ThingsManWasNotMeantToKnow "Man" Was Not Meant To Know]].
** There's also no rule saying a sentient piece of luggage can't play football. However, it really ''can't''. As in, it has no ability.
** There's also no rule barring an orangutan from the college council, though the wizards looked very hard for one.
* In Thomas E. Spencer's poem [[http://www.abpa.org.au/Bush_Poetry/Traditional_Poetry/how_mcdougal_topped_the_score.html "How McDougal Topped the Score]], [=McDougal's=] dog isn't technically ''playing'' cricket... but there ain't no rule that says you can't get your dog to fetch the ball and keep it away from the fielding side while you run 50!
* DoubleSubverted in Creator/DaveBarry's "1987: Look Back in Horror," where, on March 18, the National Collegiate Athletic Association suspends [[UsefulNotes/CollegiateAmericanFootball Southern Methodist University's football team]] upon determining, based on urine samples, that "the school's leading rusher, majoring in communications, is a horse." However, on March 23: "The Southern Methodist University horse is drafted by the [[UsefulNotes/NationalFootballLeague Kansas City Chiefs]]."
* In "Nothing in the Rules" by Creator/LSpragueDeCamp, one team at a girls' swimming competition contains a mermaid, who wins everything she enters. (To avoid disqualification for not using the proper swimming form, the mermaid only competes in the freestyle events.) In response to the opposition's outrage, the team coach points out that the rules only specify that all entrants must be female; nothing is said about species. The officials are reluctantly forced to admit that he's right. Whereupon the opposing coach visits the city zoo and borrows a female seal, who (properly incentivized with a bucket of fish) outswims the mermaid.
* In the short story "A verhetetlen tizenegy" ("The unbeatable eleven") by Hungarian writer György Moldova, a Hungarian football trainer [[ReassignedToAntarctica assigned to Africa]] recruits a team of athletically talented great apes and returns with them to Hungary. The apes enter the football league and quickly become champions. Then the trope gets {{inverted}} when the team's manager tries to convince the trainer to get his not-too-bright son in the team, saying that there ain't no rule a human can't play in an all-ape team (and suggests that his son might wear a gorilla suit to not stand out too much).
* ''Literature/WorldWarZ'' has an example that's close to this trope in spirit when a wheelchair user shows up at a recruitment office for the local [[HomeGuard volunteer anti-zombie militia]] guarding a suburban neighbourhood in the SafeZone. It takes a certain amount of arm-twisting on his part, but the recruiters do eventually concede that anyone who can slog their way to said SafeZone through a ZombieApocalypse probably meets the definition of 'able-bodied' whether their legs work or not.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Averted in an episode of ''Series/HappyDays''. The other team might not have complained about Richie's high school hockey team using a German Shepard for a goalie but Richie's team ended up [[RealityEnsues losing that game 12-0.]]
* Series/MisterEd steps up to the plate for the Los Angeles Dodgers in an episode.

[[folder:Video Games}}]]
* Arguably, the reason why [[spoiler:Franchise/DonkeyKong]] appeared in ''[[VideoGame/PunchOut Punch-Out Wii]]'' (in-universe at least; there's also the {{Fanservice}} for the Nintendo fans out there).

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''Webcomic/{{Buttersafe}}'' has the [[http://buttersafe.com/2007/05/29/how-to-be-number-one/ winning athlete]] use a PaperThinDisguise.
* ''Webcomic/{{xkcd}}'''s Randall Munroe must really hate this trope, it's been referenced (at least) six times in his comics and what-ifs
** It's the primary subject of [[http://xkcd.com/115/ #115 Meerkat]], implied in [[http://xkcd.com/1552/ #1552 Rulebook]] (in which the primary subject is the ''response'' to a team attempting to do this) and appears on [[http://xkcd.com/1957/ #1957 2018 CVE List]] (8th item) .
** And it's referenced in the alt text of [[http://xkcd.com/1439/ #1439 Rack Unit]] and as alt text for images in What-ifs [[http://what-if.xkcd.com/77/ #77 Growth Rate]] (third to last image) and [[http://what-if.xkcd.com/111/ #111 All the Money]] (last image).
* The webcomic ''Webcomic/{{Concerned}}'' (set in the world of ''VideoGame/HalfLife2'') shows the erstwhile hero telling a monster called a Gargantua "There's no rule against having a Garg play soccer! This is gonna be the best season EVER!"
* Played with in ''Webcomic/BoxerHockey'', where anyone can play, "Even good 'ole Fido". That being said the Sydney Screamers' goalie is a [[http://boxerhockey.fireball20xl.com/?id=60 kangaroo.]]
* While the trope itself doesn't appear in ''Webcomic/EightBitTheater'', Red Mage refers to "The Air Bud Clause" when explaining [[LoopholeAbuse how natural twenties work in Rock, Paper, Scissors.]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* [[http://www.theonion.com/content/video/kentucky_violated_ncaa_rules Kentucky Violated NCAA Rules While Recruiting Basketball-Playing Dog]]. "There's no rule saying a dog can't play basketball, but there is a rule against a prospect receiving gifts to influence a letter of intent."
* Parodied in [[http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/c1ec0ca16a/lost-disney-sports-movie-trailer this]] sketch.
* Inverted in ''Podcast/{{Qwerpline}}'' with the sport of [[CalvinBall Sideball]]. Sideball teams are allowed to field up to six non-human players although raccoons ''are'' specifically banned.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Parodied on ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons''. After adopting a horse, Homer spends hours training it as a placekicker, ''then'' checks the rulebook to see whether horses can play in the National Football League. Turns out, there ''is'' a rule.
** Simpsons also averted [[InvertedTrope Human Athlete Loopholes]] when Homer won at Robot Wars.
--> "Show me where in the rule book it says a human can't be a robot!" "Right here. Rule one."
* In the ''WesternAnimation/LooneyTunes'' short "Gone Batty" (1954), when the Gas House Gorillas knock out the heroes' lineup with dirty tricks, the Sweetwater Shnooks put their mascot, a baby elephant named Bobo, in to play for them. The Gorillas protest, but as the umpire says, in singsong fashion: "There's ''nothing in the rule book that says an elephant can't pitch''! Now '''play ball'''!"
** Basically a remake of "WesternAnimation/BaseballBugs" (1946), in which WesternAnimation/BugsBunny (Hence the second word in the cartoon's title) not only pitches but plays every position at once. Bugs then proceeds to invoke LoopholeAbuse everywhere.
*** Of course, the Bugs example is inverted in that it's the opposing team that made him play; Bugs was badmouthing the Gas House Gorillas, claiming that he could beat him all by himself, and the Gorillas decided to take him up on his offer. "So, big shot? You think you can beat us all by yourself, huh? Well, you got yourself a game!"
** 1936's ''Boulevardier From The Bronx'' had this all over the place. Dizzy Dan (rooster) has his Giants (players including a turtle, a pig and a dachshund) in Hickville for an exhibition game. A real cock-o'-the-walk, his team leads 3-0 going to the bottom of the ninth. Pitching, Dan loads the bases deliberately with two out so he can get to Hickville's Claude (another rooster) and strike him out. On an 0-2 pitch, Claude hits a grand slam, winning for Hickville and getting the last laugh on Dan.
* Parodied on ''WesternAnimation/CloneHigh'', where Lincoln directs a film called ''It Takes a Hero'', based on the premise that "There's no rule that says a giraffe can't play football."
** Subverted in another episode, where there ''is'' a rule at Clone High that says that women and animals cannot play boys' basketball. ([[SweetPollyOliver Joan sneaks in anyway]].)
*** (So do the animals.)
* In the 1980s ''ComicStrip/DennisTheMenaceUS'' cartoon, there ain't no rule that says a dog can't play football. There is, however, a rule that says plays cannot be made with a player's ''mouth'', so Ruff is disqualified.
* An episode of ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'' that parodied (and was slightly named after) ''You Got Served'' (and similar movies), had Stan's RagtagBunchOfMisfits dancing team include a dancing duck. [[spoiler:The duck gets injured, forcing Butters to finally join the crew, with disastrous results.]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/RockyAndBullwinkle'' "Wossamotta U" story arc, the title duo received football scholarships because of Bullwinkle's throwing ability. The rulebook said that anyone can play college football except for a ''mouse''.
* In ''WesternAnimation/SagwaTheChineseSiameseCat'', there was one episode where the Foolish Magistrate entered Sagwa in a caligraphy contest. Her status as one of the entrants was validated because there was no rule against cats entering the contest. [[spoiler:The Magistrate tried to enter the rest of Sagwa's family but there was a rule against having more than one entrant from a same province]].
* In ''WesternAnimation/KingOfTheHill'', there's a passing reference to a movie about a goat playing football. Peggy tries (and succeeds) to get into the movie for free by showing the ticket seller her press pass (as she worked with a newspaper at the time) and saying she wants to tell the readers if it's really possible for a goat to help a down-and-out football team.
* Subverted in ''WesternAnimation/TheHairBearBunch'' episode "King Klong Vs. The Masked Marvel." Bananas the Gorilla, as King Klong, defeats the Masked Marvel (Botch, filling as the Marvel who came down with measles) but loses the offered $500 prize because animals cannot compete as wrestlers.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* In actuality, most if not all sports have a rule in the books that prevents a player or team from any action that is a mockery or is intended to create a travesty of the game. This clearly falls under such a clause.
** For a practical matter, the umpire/referee/officials generally have jurisdiction over stuff that's not covered in the rule book.
* This has actually happened in some instances (not so much any more) causing ''specific'' [[ObviousRulePatch rules to be written]]. Although this is usually done to prevent college pranks and mascots joining the game.
** Any school or college team trying to pull this off would be out of luck, anyway. The animal would have to be enrolled as a student. [[note]]University of Georgia mascot, Uga the Bulldog, does in fact have his own student ID, but obviously is not listed on the team's roster.[[/note]]
* Probably as close as we'll ever see to a real life example: a [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2msmYpNXic pigeon plays special teams]] for the Oakland Raiders.