The HSUS Urges Gov. Davis to Sign Bill Strengthening CA Animal Fighting Penalties

The Humane Society of the United States
Tuesday, 19 August 2003

The HSUS is applauding today's passage of landmark legislation strengthening California's anti-cockfighting law. The Senate approved the legislation today, clearing the bill to be sent to Governor Davis for his signature. The bill was introduced by State Senator Nell Soto (D-32nd) of Ontario. State Senator Tom McClintock (R-19th) was one of just three Senators to oppose the upgrade of the anti-cockfighting bill, which was backed by humane organizations, law enforcement agencies throughout the state, and the state's major agricultural organizations.

"Cockfighting is a vicious, cruel and violent activity that has not been deterred by existing law," Senator Soto said. "My bill will give law enforcement personnel the tools they need to crack down on this so-called sport by pursuing serious penalties against people who break the law."

The bill raises penalties for a first offense to a fine of up to $5,000. Penalties for a second offense increase to a fine of up to $25,000. The current law allows for only misdemeanor penalties with up to a $1,000 fine and a year in a county jail.

"Cockfighting deserves no safe haven in California and The Humane Society of the United States is grateful to Senator Nell Soto for her leadership in this effort to stamp out this gruesome spectacle," said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS senior vice president for communications and government affairs. "With hundreds of thousands of dollars changing hands at some organized cockfights, pitifully small fines are considered a minor cost of doing business. The only way to shrink the prevalence of cockfighting is to provide penalties that will bankrupt anyone who is a repeat offender."

"California had become a regional refuge for cockfighters because they knew our law and penalties are weaker than those in surrounding states," stated Eric Sakach, director for The HSUS' West Coast regional office in Sacramento. "The passage of this law will provide meaningful financial penalties for people who instigate bloody fights between animals."

All of the states bordering California -- Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon have felony-level penalties for cockfighting. Earlier this year, a new federal law banning any interstate transport or exports of fighting animals took effect. A new bill to establish felony penalties for illegal animal fighting is now pending in Congress, and is cosponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

California officials acted quickly to enact this legislation after evidence surfaced linking illegal cockfighting to the spread of the highly contagious Exotic Newcastle Disease, which resulted in containment efforts that involved killing almost four million chickens. These efforts have come at a price, including more than $11 million dollars to compensate cockfighters and other backyard farmers for the loss of birds killed as part of disease eradication efforts.

During the course of the containment effort for Exotic Newcastle Disease, state and federal authorities have been stunned by the number of fighting bird operations. Some observers have claimed that there are 50,000 operations in the state. One such operation was raided earlier in August, resulting in the seizure of 2,000 roosters in American Canyon.

California joins Florida and Oregon in strengthening animal fighting laws this year. The bloodsport remains legal only in Louisiana and parts of New Mexico.

For more information, or to contact The Humane Society of the United States, see their website at:

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