In May last year, our Animal Rescue Team was on site to help local law enforcement officials with the largest cockfighting bust in U.S. history, in Val Verde, Los Angeles County. It was a gruesome scene, even for our staff members, most of whom are accustomed to seeing the worst kind of animal cruelty. There were nearly 8,000 birds on the 80-acre property, including roosters in cages or tied to barrels. Some of the birds were sick and dying, some had gaping wounds, and dead birds littered the ground in every direction.

It was days before the teams working on the case, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, could fully document the staggering number of birds on the site – 7,852, in all. Investigators also found fighting paraphernalia, including permanent and mobile arenas used for fighting the birds along with knives and training equipment – indicators of the violent fate that awaited these animals.

Today, as a direct result of that bust, a new county ordinance – adopted unanimously last month by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors – goes into effect. The ordinance, which has a 90-day compliance period, is designed to crack down on cockfighting rings and the crimes that usually go hand-in-glove with these criminal enterprises, by limiting the number of roosters that residents can keep on a private property.

Dogfighting and cockfighting are already treated as federal felonies and a crime in every state. But strong, common-sense local laws like those limiting the number of roosters at a property provide local law enforcement agencies with a meaningful tool to confront the problem before it gets out of hand, and they complement the federal laws in place. We have long championed the passage of rooster-limit ordinances and a number of California counties, including San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino, have already passed them.

We are grateful to Marcia Mayeda, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, whose team drafted the ordinance, and Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Sheila Kuehl, who introduced it. Eradicating dogfighting and cockfighting is a priority for us at the Humane Society of the United States, and we have worked on many fronts to suppress it. In addition to upgrading federal and state laws, we have trained tens of thousands of law enforcement agents in investigating dogfighting and cockfighting, and we have penetrated animal fighting networks to bring perpetrators to justice.

We believe strongly that our work against animal fighting provides an additional benefit, by flagging people very likely to be involved in other criminal conduct. Animal fighting has long been associated with illegal gambling, narcotics trafficking and violence toward people, including homicide.

The victory in Los Angeles County is an important one, for the birds and for the people, including our staff responders at the HSUS, who fearlessly encounter and deal with animal cruelty each day. Animal fighting has no place in our society, and with the nation’s most populated county cracking down decisively on it today, we’ve taken a strong step forward together. Let’s take a moment to celebrate, even as we set our sights on future progress in our efforts to bring the curtain down on this cruelty.

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