About 70 roosters were seized during an investigation into a suspected cockfighting operation southeast of Palmdale, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Suspects were identified but not arrested after sheriff’s deputies served a warrant Jan. 27 in the 23000 block of Fort Tejon Road in Llano, according to Deputy Joel Bronson, who was at the scene.
It can take a while to examine the birds and document potential abuse before filing charges, said Bronson, who is on the sheriff’s BloodSport Team.
Veterinarians with L.A. County Animal Care and Control handle that aspect of the investigation, he added.
Cockfighting typically involves putting two roosters bred for aggression in a small ring, where they’re encouraged to fight to the death, often with people betting on the outcome. The practice is illegal in every state.
One way to determine whether a rooster is conditioned for the sport is to examine its behavior, according to Bronson.
“If they’re housed with other roosters, they’ll fight, typically to the death,” he said. “If they’re roaming free to the yard, they’ll fight and kill each other.”
Roosters living together among many hens tend to be calmer, he added.
California is a common stopping point for birds arriving from the Eastern U.S. before being shipped overseas, with Guam being a common destination, according to Marty Irby, executive director of the animal rights lobbying group Animal Wellness Action.
Bronson believes that cockfighting matches occur on the California properties as well.
L.A. County authorities seized up to 70 roosters southeast of Palmdale.
(L.A. County Sheriff’s Department)
The area where the recent raid took place, which includes the Antelope Valley and parts of San Bernardino County, is a hotspot for cockfighting operations, Irby said.
Irby said his group is investigating a potential operation not far from the Llano property.
Bronson said the semi-rural setting provides enough space to house roosters individually, so they won’t slaughter one another.
The suspected Llano operation is relatively small, he said — often, roosters number several hundred.
In August, a raid of a Chatsworth property led to the seizure of at least 2,000 birds.
Prior to coronavirus restrictions making it harder to raid suspected cockfighting operations, sheriff’s officials typically executed a search warrant every month or two, Bronson said.
Despite the expansive properties, a large number of birds in close contact with humans creates conditions where pathogens could jump between species, Irby said.
“It’s not only something that is inhumane, and a terrible practice, but it’s also a breeding ground for COVID-19-type diseases,” he said.
The sheriff’s department typically launches investigations based on complaints about noise and sanitation from neighbors, according to Bronson.
“Imagine waking up every morning to 600 roosters crowing,” Bronson said.