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New Rooster Ordinance Approved by County

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August 2, 2011

Cockfight organizers in the region, beware!

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a rooster ordinance that aims to reduce or eliminate cockfighting by limiting the number of roosters residents can keep on their property.

“This action is another step in the right direction to combat illegal cockfighting,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob, District 2. “This is a sick, cruel sport… (This action) will make it more difficult to continue their activity in our county.”

Related Video: Fighting Birds Seized (May 20, 2010)

In California, as opposed to surrounding states, it’s only a misdemeanor to own, keep, possess or train any bird with the intent of using it for fighting. The less severe consequences attract people who engage in cockfighting. It is also against the law to attend cockfight bouts or possess spurs, gaffs or knives that are used in cockfighting.

Since 2000, County Department of Animal Services (DAS) investigations have resulted in more than 100 arrests, confiscation of paraphernalia used in cockfighting, and the euthanasia of thousands of fighting birds.

Generally, these arrests take place after long and costly investigations to obtain a warrant to search the property and gather evidence. 

The proposed ordinance would limit the number of roosters to one for properties less than half an acre and up to 20 for properties larger than five acres.

The new ordinance will provide more effective and efficient means to combat cockfighting in unincorporated areas by enabling DAS to initiate an enforcement action based on observations from a public area. For the consistency of enforcement, the Board directed the Chief Administrative Officer, Walt Ekard, to write a letter asking the department’s contract cities of San Diego, Carlsbad, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas and Santee to enact similar ordinances.

Board Chairman Bill Horn opposed the ordinance, suggesting that the state should instead make cockfighting a felony.

“California should not be the one to make it a misdemeanor,” Horn said. “We should make it a felony.” 

These spurs were seized in a 2010 cockfighting investigation.

Many California communities already restrict the keeping of roosters, including Riverside County, San Bernardino County, City of Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo County, Santa Clara County, and, most recently, Solano County.

“The new law will be easier to enforce because we won’t need to prove the intent of the rooster owner,” said Dawn Danielson, Director of the County’s Department of Animal Services, which proposed the ordinance. “Our goal is to put cockfighters out of business in San Diego County.”

A final vote is expected at the Sept. 13 Board meeting. If approved, the new rooster restrictions would go into effect January 1, 2012.