On Saturday morning, Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control officers, assisted by spcaLA, responded to a tip about a major cockfight operation in a working-class area of Compton, California, and ended up seizing $100,000 in gambling and fight-entry fees, along with 60 game roosters. (Compton is situated just southeast of downtown Los Angeles.)
It was estimated that the fights began at approximately 7:00 a.m. in a tarp-covered area of a yard in the 14000 block of Castlegate Ave. By the time officers’ arrived at 8:30 a.m., the bloody event had already been in progress long enough for 7 birds to be killed, and 8 more were so severely injured that they had to be euthanized. The remaining healthy birds were taken to shelters.
The raid resulted in detaining 47 suspects--both male and female--and confiscating about $100,000 in bets and fight-entry fees. A total of 60 fighting birds were seized from the yard, authorities said, along with a large amount of paraphernalia related to cockfighting, including knives—called slashers or gaffs—which are attached to the legs of the birds while they fight, in order to assure serious or fatal wounds to the opponent.
Several minors were also present and were released to relatives who were called by County officers. Under California law, bringing children to a cockfight can result in additional charges for child endangerment or contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Aaron Reyes, Deputy Director of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care & Control, explained, “This property was suspected of hosting illegal cockfights in the past and was being monitored by our Major Cases Unit. We received a tip that a high-stakes cockfight was going to take place today and we secured a search warrant.”
Reyes stated that suspects told officers the buy-in fee per fight was $1,000. He added that the birds were notably large for fighting cocks.
“Animals don’t talk,” Deputy Director Reyes stated, “so it is often difficult to get information we need. It is time-consuming, but we question everybody at the site. Many of those present had large amounts of cash and some possessed cocaine.But everybody claimed to be just a spectator and nobody admitted owning any of the birds. They didn’t want to risk claiming them,” he said.
About 20 people, mostly Latino males, either ran away or jumped fences to escape arrest when the early morning raid began on December 21, “Our Department had a large presence of Spanish-speaking officers,” Reyes said. The 47 remaining suspects were detained and cited for misdemeanor charges of being a spectator at an illegal animal fight. Several were recovered from neighboring backyards by Sheriff’s deputies or found hiding in bushes.
Some of those cited face additional charges of being participants in a cockfight. If convicted, they could face up to a year in jail, and a recent California law increased the fine to $5,000 for a first offense as a spectator. A second conviction may be prosecuted as a felony with imprisonment for between 16 months and 3 years, and/or a fine of up to $25,000.
Reyes said that all of the attendees claimed they were not at the location because of the cockfighting but merely happened to be passing by and stopped to see what was happening on the property. He said a few said that they just “came for tacos.”
The owner of the house was not on the premises, or he may have been among those who fled when officers made entry to the scene. Reyes said that the majority of the $100,000 cash was found in the living room of the house.
“Los Angeles County officials will continue the investigation and further charges -- including felony gambling--could result.
“The discovery of $100,000 at this cockfight shows how much gambling goes on at these events, along with immense animal suffering. No misdemeanor fine is going to deter a blood sport when there is so much profit incentive to break the law. First- offense felony penalties for cockfighting are needed in California and in all 50 states,” commented John Goodwin, Director of Animal-Cruelty Policy for The Humane Society of the United States.
Deputy Director Aaron Reyes also emphasized his personal concern that an illegal cockfighting ring was located in a yard of a home in a residential neighborhood where it can be seen by youngsters passing by on bicycles and skateboards. “Over time the acceptance of brutality can become the norm within the community and desensitize children to the pain and suffering inflicted on helpless victims--whether animals or humans. It is hard enough for youth to witness the violence on TV and in videos but to have it within 100 feet of where they play is barbaric.”
Read also: New Law Doubles Fines for Cockfighting in Calif. http://www.opposingviews.com/