El Dorado County Animal Services, with the assistance of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Deparment, is investigating what appears to be a game cock breeding and conditioning operation at a residence in Shingle Springs.
Game birds are used in illegal cockfighting operations. About 75 game birds were found on the Shingle Springs property June 27 where a search warrant was executed.
“A variety of evidence was collected in relation to the operation. The investigation is continuing,” said Henry Brzezinski, chief of Animal Services. “Large amounts of money, drugs and weapons are often involved in cockfighting matches. There are also often other crimes and violence associated with these activities. We take this kind of operation very seriously. We want to thank the Sheriff’s Office for their help on this case.”
According to Brzezinski, hidden cockfighting operations in El Dorado County communities and other rural areas of the Sacramento region are more common than most people realize. Last year two men were arrested in El Dorado County for running a large-scale cockfighting operation out of a Garden Valley residence. One was sentenced to jail time and required to pay restitution, and the other was deported.
The birds used in cockfighting are bred to be aggressive by injecting them with powerful chemicals, stimulants and hormones, and by subjecting them to inhumane training methods, according to Brzezinski. Prior to fighting, a knife (known as a slasher) is attached to one of the legs of each rooster and the birds are taunted into fighting one another until one usually dies from its injuries.
Cockfighting is illegal in the United States. Penalties vary from state to state. If convicted in California, penalties can include jail time and/or fines up to $5,000 for a first offense and $25,000 for a second offense. Brzezinski noted that while the states surrounding California consider cockfighting to be a felony offense California considers it a misdemeanor. “This may be one of the reasons why we are seeing more cockfighting operations here,” said Brzezinski.
All of the birds connected with the raid in El Dorado County yesterday were removed from the property. “Some of the birds could be saved,” explained Brzezinski. “Unfortunately some of the birds had to be humanely euthanized because their behavior was too aggressive for them to be rehabilitated.”
Animal Services encourages residents to report any suspected cockfighting activities in their neighborhood to the Sheriff’s Department or Animal Services. Signs of possible cockfighting activity include:
• A large number of roosters tethered to a crude shelter or confined in pens.
• Roosters whose combs, wattles or natural spurs have been cut off.
• Roosters with untreated wounds and/or other signs of neglect.
• A large number of chickens being bred and kept outside in unsafe or unsanitary conditions.
• The sound of many roosters crowing in remote areas, coupled with many people coming and going, especially on weekends and holidays.
Animal Services staff can be reached at (530) 621-5795 in Placerville or at (530) 573-7925 in South Lake Tahoe. Additional information about Animal Services can also be found at edcgov.us/animalservices.