County eyes rooster limits to deter cockfighting
Commercial and educational
ventures exempt from change
By Joe Naiman
San Diego County supervisors, with Supervisor Bill Horn opposed, recently took the first step toward limiting the number of roosters on certain properties and requiring that roosters be kept in humane conditions.
In a 4-1 vote, the supervisors approved the introduction and first reading of an ordinance whose primary purpose is to target cockfighting. Commercial property and educational ventures are exempt.
The second reading and adoption is scheduled for Sept. 13 and, if the supervisors adopt the ordinance then, it would take effect Oct. 13 although the limit for the number of roosters would not take effect until Jan. 1.
The supervisors on Aug. 2 also voted to make cockfighting a felony and add that to the county’s legislative program.
“My whole goal here is to go after cockfighting,” said John Carlson, the deputy director of the county’s Department of Animal Services. “I don’t want to burden legitimate poultry raisers.”
The ordinance defines a rooster as a male chicken that is six months of age or older with full adult plumage or that is capable of crowing. The ordinance prohibits keeping more than one rooster on a premise (including contiguous property under common ownership) of less than half an acre, more than four roosters on property between half an acre and one acre, more than six roosters on property between one and five acres, or more than 20 roosters on premises over five acres.
Each rooster beyond the limit would constitute a separate violation of the ordinance. The ordinance also retains any zoning with more restrictive provisions on the number of roosters.
The quantity limit section of the ordinance exempts commercial poultry ranches whose primary purpose is to produce eggs or meat for sale for human consumption, approved 4-H or Future Farmers of America projects, public or private schools, and county or Humane Society animal shelters.
The omission of statutory protection for Grange projects apparently was an oversight. Four Grange chapters exist in San Diego County — in Ramona, Rainbow, San Marcos and Vista. According to information provided by the San Diego County Farm Bureau and the University of California Cooperative Extension, the county has 32 4-H chapters and 16 FFA chapters.
A recent cockfighting raid in Rainbow involved more than 700 birds, and a Pauma Valley raid found approximately 500 roosters. “The cockfighters are becoming real problematic,” Carlson said.
Roosters have also caused noise complaints, and the ordinance stipulates that each enclosure shall be at least 50 feet from any residence. The ordinance also prohibits keeping a rooster attached to an object with a tether, and each tethered rooster will constitute a separate violation.
The ordinance also requires that each rooster shall at all times be provided with access to water, with shelter from the elements (rain, wind, direct sun, etc.), with sufficient room to spread both wings fully and to be able to turn in a complete circle without any impediment and without touching the side of an enclosure, and with clean and sanitary premises.
California law classifies ownership, possession or training any bird for cockfighting as a misdemeanor. Cockfighting is a felony in Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico and Washington, among other states, and, since California has less severe consequences than neighboring states, it has become a draw for cockfighting.
“San Diego County has become a mecca for cockfighting,” said Supervisor Pam Slater-Price.
“Our current ordinances do not get the job done and do not protect the neighborhood,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “This action is taking another step in the right direction to combat illegal cockfighting.”
She noted that cockfighters raise their birds to be mean while roosters raised for pets, show or personal poultry consumption tend not to generate the noise of birds prepared for cockfighting.
“One rooster per twelve hens is the poultry fact,” she said.
Horn said he opposed the restrictions rather than the purpose. “I’m opposed to cockfighting and I think it’s wrong,” he said.
“I’m happy we can make it much more difficult for cockfighting,” Jacob said.
“I’m just happy the board passed the ordinance,” Carlson said. “I think it will go far to reduce cockfighting in the county.”
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