In the wake of several high-profile cockfighting incidents in California over the past month, including one where a Tulare man was killed after being cut by razors affixed to a fighting rooster, The Humane Society of the United States praised the introduction of Senate Bills 425 and 426 by Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, aimed at cracking down on illegal animal fighting.
Cockfighting remains a pervasive, insidious and dangerous threat to California communities. In spite of increased attention from media, law enforcement and the legislature, these underground organized criminal activities continue to thrive across urban and rural, coastal and inland, northern and southern California. Since 2008, there have been more than 100 law enforcement incidences involving cockfighting in 34 of California’s 58 counties. More than 20,000 birds have been found dead or alive in connection with the bloodsport.
Relatively weak laws – including having one of the softest cockfighting laws in the nation – combined with tough economic times make California an attractive place for these violent criminal activities to persist and even thrive.
“Throughout California, roosters are being forced to fight to the death with steel blades tied to their legs,” said Eric Sakach, senior law enforcement specialist for The HSUS. “Until the price of punishment exceeds the profits of cockfighting, this crime will continue to be widespread throughout California.”
S.B. 425, co-authored by Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Napa, Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, and Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, will create parity for cockfighting and dogfighting crimes by permitting the forfeiture of property acquired with means gained from illegal cockfighting (Penal Code § 598.1); establish minimum fines and penalties for those convicted of illegal animal fighting (Penal Code §§ 597.5, 597b, 597c, 597h, 597i, 597j). S.B. 426 would authorize civil action to abate the public nuisance of illegal animal fighting.
“Cockfighting is an extreme form of animal cruelty and goes hand in hand with other crimes,” said Sen. Calderon. “Enactment of this legislation would be a win-win for both animals and our communities.”
- Cockfighting is outlawed in all 50 states and is punished as a felony in 39.
- It is not a felony under California law to be a spectator at a cockfight. This makes it difficult for law enforcement to charge most people caught in cockfighting raids as participants routinely abandon their birds and claim they were only present to watch the fights.
- Tougher laws in border states like Arizona and Oregon make California a destination of choice for cockfighters in the region.
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