Wednesday, October 3, 2018

By Elizabeth Marcellino

 

LOS ANGELES—Seeking to stop illegal cockfighting while allowing bird lovers to breed and show roosters, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance Tuesday limiting the number of mature male chickens that residents can keep in unincorporated areas.

"There's no question in my mind that this county needs to take action," Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.

Limits will be based on property size and residents with more than 10 roosters on any size property will need to be licensed as an animal facility.

Roosters trained to fight are sometimes fitted with knives and injected with adrenaline-boosting drugs and typically become too aggressive to be rescued and adopted, animal rights advocates told the board.

But the issue is bigger than animal abuse and complaints about noise and odor, because cockfighting often draws other illegal activity.

Sheriff's Capt. Jeff Perry said the department has received more than 100 complaints of cockfights in progress over the past several years and served more than 35 search warrants on locations actively breeding roosters for fights.

Deputies have "discovered illegal weapons, including long rifles, illegal drugs ... theft of utilities," Perry said, while others mentioned prostitution and child endangerment.

Many cities—including 43 of the 88 within Los Angeles County—already prohibit roosters or limit the number allowed per residence. The county's ordinance was modeled on one enacted in Solano County and reflects best practices, Barger said.

The county first considered the restrictions after "the largest cock—fighting raid in U.S. history" in the unincorporated community of Val Verde in the Santa Clarita Valley in May 2017, said Marcia Mayeda, who leads the Department of Animal Care and Control.

Animal control officers spent four days impounding nearly 8,000 roosters in Val Verde and spent roughly $270,000 on the enforcement effort.

Between 2012-18, the department impounded a total of 18,300 birds. And the problem is not restricted to rural neighborhoods. Thousands of fowl were confiscated from an unincorporated area near Compton.

Authorities said they designed the ordinance to balance the needs of hobbyists who show chickens by allowing as many as 25 roosters at a licensed animal facility.

Supervisor Janice Hahn questioned whether that number was too high.

"I was a little surprised at the 25," Hahn said.

Mayeda explained that some breeders raise multiple lines of chickens and may need more than one rooster for each breed, as some mature.

"Legitimate poultry fanciers will be able to continue their hobby," Mayeda said. "There are some remarkable chickens out there."

The ordinance does not apply to hens, which can lay eggs without roosters.

"We have a lot of people who just raise hens to feed their family," Supervisor Hilda Solis said.

First-time violators will be fined up to $100, with maximum fines doubling or more on subsequent violations.

The ordinance is expected to take effect in 30 days, but the department will work with residents to bring them into compliance between now and Dec. 31.

"Unless there's a cockfighting situation. That's a different situation," Mayeda said.

Department officials later noted in a statement that complaints regarding noise, unsanitary conditions and animal abuse or neglect will be immediately enforced.