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Statement by The HSUS on Deaths at California Cockfight

Two deaths highlight need for stronger deterrent against blood sport

Eric Sakach, senior law enforcement specialists for The Humane Society of the United States, issued the following statement in response to Sunday morning's deaths at an illegal cockfight near Livingston, Calif.:

"The two deaths in Merced County are only the most recent in a series of killings that have happened at cockfights in California in recent years. It is time to make cockfighting a felony on the first offense so we can deter cockfight promoters from staging these events. 

"The only way to stop cockfighting, and the carnage that goes hand-in-hand with it, is to provide penalties that are greater than the potential gambling winnings. Strong penalties have proven to be an effective deterrent for cockfighting in other states. California has become an outlier on this issue, with most of the United States treating cockfighting as a felony."

About Cockfighting

  • In California, cockfighting is punished as a misdemeanor on the first offense. Subsequent offenses are punished as felonies.
  • Dogfighting is a felony in California and animal fighting is a federal felony. It is time to treat all animal fighting in a consistent manner to prevent cockfighting from venue shopping for their fights.
  • Common cockfighting practices include breeding birds for viciousness, drugging them to heighten aggression, and fitting their legs with razor-sharp knives or gaffs, which resemble curved ice picks.
  • Law enforcement raids across the country have revealed that cockfights, which are frequently attended by children, often involve firearms and other weapons due to the large amounts of cash present for gambling.
  • Law enforcement officials have documented a strong connection between cockfighting and the distribution of illegal drugs.


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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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