Fines for Californians guilty of staging cockfights or training roosters to be gamecocks will double in January from $5,000 to $10,000 thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown July 13.
The move is an attempt to curb the illegal fights of which there have been 100 major arrests in 35 counties involving more than 20,000 live or dead birds.
Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Fresno counties have the highest number of cockfighting incidents.
The San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office, which sponsored the bill – SB 1145 by Sen. Bill Emmerson, a Hemet Republican – notes that in California a first offense cockfighting conviction is a misdemeanor while Oregon, Arizona and New Mexico it’s a felony.
Emmerson acknowledges that making a first offense a felony might be a stronger deterrent but the state’s already overcrowded prisons, coupled with federal orders to further reduce their population, require an alternative approach.
Hence, the fine doublings.
“Any person who, for amusement or gain, causes any cock to fight with another cock or with a different kind of animal or creature or with any human being; or who, for amusement or gain, worries or injures any cock, or causes any cock to worry or injure another animal; and any person who permits the same to be done on any premises under his or her charge or control, and any person who aids or abets the fighting or worrying of any cock is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, or by a fine not to exceed ($10,000) or by both.”
To discourage spectators from paying to attend cockfights, the fine jumps from $1,000 to $5,000 under the new law.
In cockfights, which happen in a cockpit, the roosters are usually fitted with gaffs or slashers — long, sharp, curved picks that are placed on both legs over the bird’s natural spurs.
Anyone who manufactures, sells, buys or possesses gaffs and slashers would also see their fine double from a maximum of $5,000 to $10,000.
The bill also doubles the fine from $5,000 to $10,000 for anyone convicted of conducting bull, bear or other animal fights.