Historic raid sparks county action on cockfighting

In May, the Sheriff's Department made the largest seizure in connection with an alleged cockfighting ring, in U.S. history. Courtesy | LASD
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The largest seizure of illegal cockfighting birds in the history of the United States happened on the doorstep of Santa Clarita Valley this past summer, and this week, county supervisors took steps to ensure it never happens again.

Los Angeles County Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Sheila Kuehl drafted a motion requiring the Department of Animal Care and Control and the office of County Counsel to report back to the board in the next 30 days with a recommendation to limit the keeping of roosters in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County

The county hope the supervisors’ “Gamefowl Storage Restriction” will put an end to cockfighting in the county.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors are expected to vote on the motion Tuesday.

“An ordinance limiting the number of game birds per parcel of land will allow law enforcement and Animal Care and Control officers an opportunity to observe and monitor any buildup or collection of game birds in one place,” Barger spokesman Tony Bell told The Signal Thursday.

Cockfighting raid

On May 15, a raid carried out on a Val Verde cockfighting operation netted the largest seizure of birds bred for fighting in the U.S. history.

More than 7,800 cockfighting birds were found at a suspected cockfighting operation in Val Verde, at an 80-acre lot on the 29000 block of Jackson Street in Val Verde, where the raid took place.

Authorities also found other animals and some 50 guard dogs.

Illegal cockfighting paraphernalia, guns and illegal drugs were seized by the Los Angeles County Sheriff, the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, and many supporting agencies, according to officials.

County supervisors called cockfighting is an inhumane crime in which animals are forced to fight to the death for amusement and gain, according to county supervisors.

The birds used for fighting were deemed unfit for adoption and humanely killed, Don Barre, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, told The Signal after the operation.

The property was the subject of a similar action in 2007, when more than 2,700 illegal cockfighting birds were seized.

Other crimes, such as gambling, illegal drugs, weapons, prostitution and child abuse occur during these fights, according to the county officials. Cockfighting operations are not limited to rural areas, they pointed out.  In many cases, property owners with close neighbors may keep hundreds of these birds.

Health concerns

The keeping of such large numbers of fighting birds creates significant problems, such as excessive noise, flies and potential sources of disease, such as Avian Flu or Exotic Newcastle Disease.

Also, may cockfighting operations store cockfighting paraphernalia at different locations from the game fowl.

Storing game fowl attracts attention from law enforcement officials, but the lack of cockfighting evidence on-site inhibits law enforcement’s ability to crack down on these illegal operations.

Barger and Kuehl contend it is for these reasons that a number of California counties have adopted ordinances restricting the keeping of roosters.

These ordinances have helped to reduce or eliminate illegal rooster fighting in their counties, as well as the associated crimes and quality of life issues that come with them.

Los Angeles County should have the same protections for its residents.

During the cockfighting raid in May, at least eight people were detained during the operation, including the owners of the bird-holding property, LASD Sgt. Bob Boese of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Station told The Signal in May.

“There were no arrests but eight to 10 were detained,” he said at the time.

“The 7,000 birds were a mix of roosters, chickens and chicks,” Boese said. “We found seven that were dead and several injured.

“The injured birds were not injured as in bloodied after a fight, but had injuries at various stages of healing,” he said.

“This was a breeding operation and also a place where the fights took place,” he said.

Detectives of the LASD’s Community Partnerships Bureau described the raid as an “extensive rescue in Santa Clarita Valley.”

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