Illegal animal fights are increasing in the Los Angeles area, especially cockfighting matches and street level dog fights.
“It’s getting so prevalent law enforcement officials are having a tough time keeping up with the crime,” FOX 11 reported on Nov. 19.
Based on information by L.A. County Sheriff’s officials that illegal animal fights take place every weekend, FOX 11 reporters followed deputies to the scene of a cockfighting raid and were informed of the monetary incentive from gambling is the main incentive and that a purse can add up to $15,000 for one fight.
Sheriff’s officials say that these illegal gambling rings are popping up faster than authorities can shut them down.
Is it really that illegal animal fighting is increasing, or are participants just becoming bolder, believing that — as in the past — fighting roosters will just be overlooked and accepted as a “cultural tradition”?
Recent increases in the penalties under State law show that California lawmakers do not consider engaging game fowl with slashers and blades attached to their feet in bloody fights to death is an acceptable pastime.
PENALTIES FOR COCKFIGHTERS & SPECTATORS IN CALIFORNIA
A first-offense conviction for cockfighting in California under PC 597a is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, by a fine not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both.
A second or subsequent conviction is a misdemeanor or a felony punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year or the state prison for 16 months, two, or three years, by a fine not to exceed twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000), or by both.
THE WORLD OF ILLEGAL ANIMAL FIGHTING
At one Antelope Valley home where Fox News crew accompanied officers, they reported that Sheriff’s deputies found hundreds of roosters and coops.
Deputy Charles Friedland explained, “You’re pitting two large roosters with basically knives attached to the back of their feet, they’re slashing each other until they die.”
Deputy Ferrell explained that along with the illegal gambling through animal fights, deputy often find more criminal activity.
“It’s really about the money, the gambling, the breeding of animals for money, narcotics, firearms, and the brutality that goes with it.”
During the raid, deputies confiscate cockfighting kits, which include multiple blades that are used like spurs, they find a rule book and drugs to make the roosters more aggressive.
At this raid, the rooster breeder says he just sells the animals and doesn't fight them but deputies found blades and other cockfighting material on his property.
DON’T HAVE A ROOSTER IN THE FIGHT? JUST WANT TO WATCH?
Under PC 597j, any person who owns, keeps, or trains a bird for fighting or sells birds for fighting is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, by a fine not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both.
Any subsequent animal fighting conviction is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to one year or by a fine not to exceed twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000), or by both.
So even though just going to a cockfight or breeding some birds might seem like an easy way to make a quick buck, it can also involve some costly penalties.
597c says that any person who is knowingly present as a spectator at any exhibition of animal fighting, or where preparations are being made for any animal fight exhibition is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed six months, or by a fine of five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both.
DOG FIGHTERS FACE HEAVY PENALTIES IN CALIFORNIA
Cockfighting isn’t the only animal blood sport bringing in money to illegal gambling rings. “Pit bulls are also being bred to be killers,” Fox 11 tells viewers.
Sheriff’s Deputy Ferrell says, “When one dog wins, the other dog dies.”
LA Sheriff’s deputies told FOX 11 that dog fighting rings are not uncommon in Southern California and are rapidly increasing at the street level which is mostly associated with gangs.
“They don’t think of a dog like normal people see animals, to them it's a tool for gambling, tool for drugs, it’s a tool for money,” said Ferrell.
In the world of dog fighting, he explains, the value is placed on how many wins a dog has, strong ones are used for breeding, the loser has a far worse fate. “If the dog submits, it's no use to them, they dispose of the dog,” (which is one of the reasons California shelters are filled with Pit Bulls).
Ferrell says, “You have animals that are killed animals that are maimed, both are pit bulls that are fighting, both dogs are injured, it’s not uncommon for both dogs to pass away from injuries.”
Here’s a simplified interpretation of Penal Code Sec. 597.5, Dog Fighting:
Anyone who owns, keeps or trains a dog for fighting, causes a dog to fight, allows a staged dog fight to take place on his/er property…is guilty of a felony and is punishable by imprisonment for 16 months, or two or three years, or by a fine not to exceed fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), or by both.
SPECTATOR AT DOG FIGHT
Any person who is knowingly present, as a spectator, at any place, building, or tenement where preparations are being made for an exhibition of the fighting of dogs, with the intent to be present at those preparations, or is knowingly present at that exhibition…is guilty of an offense punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, or by a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both.
REWARD FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO ARREST/CONVICTION
FOX 11 informs its viewers that The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person involved in illegal animal fighting. Call 877-TIP-HSUS (877-847-4787). Callers’ identities are protected.
HELP STOP ANIMAL FIGHTING IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY
Deputy Director of L.A. County Animal Care & Control Aaron Reyes advises that the department has just increased its Major Case Unit (MCU) to a total of seven specialized animal control officers, whose responsibility is to investigate all reports of cruelty/abuse, including illegal animal fighting. Reports of animal fighting are referred directly to the MCU.
Animal Control Officers are sworn law-enforcement officers and have all the powers of a peace officer while on duty. Members of the Major Cast Unit have the experience and expertise to fully conduct complex investigations of any crimes involving animals, he said. They typically work side by side with LA County Sheriff’s or police departments when a search warrant is necessary or there is a custodial arrest of suspects.
Animal control personnel are also responsible for the handling and safe removal of animals from any crime scene.
Reports of emergency or non-emergency situations can be made at the following link: http://animalcare.lacounty.gov/wps/portal/acc/request.