A California cockfighting ring was shut down by deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. The suspected ringleader was arrested, and 140 birds were euthanized.
While betting on California horse racing is legal, and California sports betting could follow this fall, cockfighting is not legal in The Golden State. In fact, the activity is illegal in all 50 states.
Just before midnight on Aug. 5, Riverside County sheriff’s deputies discovered the cockfighting ring in Jurupa Valley. When they arrived, a crowd of 200 people fled the gory scene. More than 150 birds, some dead and others severely hurt, were at the illegal event.
The Riverside County Department of Animal Services arrived shortly after and, together with officers, began the process of humanely euthanizing the surviving 140 birds. The process took until 6 am the next day to complete.
The man allegedly running the cockfighting ring 50 miles east of Los Angeles faces a misdemeanor charge for possessing fighting blades (gaffs). The investigation remains open. According to a press release from Animal Services, they will likely seek felony animal cruelty charges through the Riverside County District Court.
The history of cockfighting
Cockfighting is an ancient bloodsport that started in India, China and Persia before working its way westward into Greece. From there, it traveled north through Europe into England.
Louisiana was the last state to ban the practice, in 2007. Aside from the animal cruelty, cockfighting usually includes a number of other criminal activities, according to the Humane Society. These activities include illegal gambling, drug trafficking, gang activity and illegal weapon sales.
Earlier this year, authorities seized 133 birds in a Texas cockfighting ring. Four hundred birds were taken in a bust of a Massachusetts ring in 2018. In 2017, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies seized more than 7,000 birds in the largest-ever cockfighting raid in history. They were all euthanized.
Euthanization the only recourse for ‘gamecocks’
Birds in cockfighting rings fight to the death in dug-out pits for money. They become dangerous and unsuitable for domestic life. In a statement from Riverside Animal Services, the agency explained.
“The birds must be euthanized because Animal Services cannot adopt out such birds as they are valuable and they would almost always end up back in a cockfighting ring. They are not suitable as pets.”
Proprietors of such “gamecocks” as they’re called in cockfighting circles typically affix sharpened steel blades called “gaffs” to one of the bird’s spurs. The birds use them as their primary weapon in fights. The blades are so sharp and lethal that birds have actually killed their owners during cockfights.
Gamecocks typically suffer punctured organs and gouged eyes in the bloody bouts. Even in the cases where birds are obviously incapacitated and/or exhausted, they are not removed until one or both are dead.
Beyond abuse in actual combat, these birds suffer tremendously. As the Humane Society explains, they are often injected with steroids. They are tied on a short tether to a stake in the ground or put in a dark box for weeks before a fight to deprive them of stimuli.
If they survive, they receive steroid injections to sustain them until the next fight.