[[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.]]]]

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

Using the absence of a specific rule against it, the underdog team brings in an adorable animal to play for them 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 it looks hopeless: The OpposingSportsTeam is in town and gunning for the championship. Their coach is a DrillSergeantNasty and the [[JerkJock town bully]] is the star player.

Thank goodness, someone on our team has an animal that has just revealed its untapped, unbeatable sporting abilities! The other team may rant and rave, but there's nothing they can do about it. Why? [[AintNoRule Ain't no specific rule again' it!]] This is the AnimalAthleteLoophole.

[[RealityEnsues But in reality]], such a move would be stymied by other rules. Age limitations, 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.

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

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:{{Anime}} and {{Manga}}]]
* Used, surprisingly, in ''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 ''{{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."
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* ''SoccerDog'' and ''Soccer Dog: European Pup'': Ain't no rule that says a dog can't play soccer!
* The ''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 ''{{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.
* ''{{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]]. This also happens in [[AdaptationDisplacement the book]]. The fields on the form there were "Name of Owner" and "Name of Entry".
* In the film version of ''Film/StuartLittle'', most of the boats in the race are being operated by remote control. Guess there AintNoRule that says a mouse can't be sailing one.
* ''RacingStripes'', a kids' movie about a zebra that wants to be a racehorse. To quote TheOtherWiki's summary, ''It is similar in the style to the 1995 movie ''{{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 "quarter horse" (with the implication being that the other three quarters are zebra).
* 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.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* ''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!
* 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]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:LiveActionTV]]
* Averted in an episode of ''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.]]
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[[folder:VideoGames}}]]
* 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]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* ''Webcomic/{{Buttersafe}}'' has the [[http://buttersafe.com/2007/05/29/how-to-be-number-one/ winning athlete]] use a PaperThinDisguise.
* Spoofed in [[http://www.xkcd.com/115/ this]] ''Webcomic/{{xkcd}}'' strip.
* The webcomic ''{{Concerned}}'' (set in the world of ''VideoGame/{{Half-Life 2}}'') 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 ''Webcomic/EightBitTheater'' Red Mage refers to "The Air Bud Clause" when explaining [[AintNoRule how natural twenties work in Rock, Paper, Scissors.]]
[[/folder]]

[[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.
[[/folder]]

[[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 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!"
* Parodied on ''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 ''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 ''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 ''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.
[[/folder]]

[[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.
* 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.
[[/folder]]
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