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February 23, 2010

Large Suspected California Cockfighting Operation Raided

Dandy Game Fowl farm may not have been so dandy for animals

The Humane Society of the United States

 

by Ariana Huemer

On the edge of the quiet desert town of Yucaipa, California, with the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains as a backdrop, something sinister was astir. Mike Mitchell's Dandy Game Fowl farm is alleged to have been involved in one of the most repulsive forms of animal cruelty—organized cockfighting.

But on Feb. 16, San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies and animal control officers, assisted by HSUS personnel and acting on an HSUS tip, descended upon the property and seized close to 500 birds.

There they found hundreds of birds housed in an elaborate setup. While most roosters stood isolated inside individual cages or at the ends of tethers, scores of feisty hens darted between the long rows of rooster pens. As the roosters crowed and paced madly in their confinement, the hungry hens scratched at the ground hopefully, searching out a stray bug or a dropped crumb.

South of the border, and elsewhere

Although cockfighting has been illegal in California since the late 1800s, it remains a misdemeanor on the first offense. Meanwhile, neighboring states, particularly Arizona and Oregon, have passed strong felony cockfighting laws in the last decade, making California a target for cockfighters.

Just to the south lies Mexico, where cockfighting is practically a national pastime. Many California cockfighters do brisk business in Mexico, selling their fighting roosters over the border for top dollar, although transporting fighting animals over state lines and country borders is a federal felony.

In a recent interview with a Mexican cockfighting magazine, Mitchell openly boasted of selling his birds to cockfighters in Mexico. He elaborated on their successes in Mexican cockfighting tournaments—some of them reportedly winning huge sums of prize money before their demise in another bloody fighting match.

It was this boasting that led to the massive raid on Mitchell's property.

Winding down the day

At the close of the day, with all the fighting roosters catalogued, HSUS staff took time out for a much-needed break. When a crowd of the free-running hens raced over at the sight of a few dropped crumbs from an energy bar, their hunger was hard to ignore. We fed the birds our sandwich bread and hoped that a better life would soon be at hand for them.

Read Wayne Pacelle's blog on this raid.

Ariana Huemer is animal cruelty case manager for The Humane Society of the United States.

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