Secret cockfighting alive and unwell in Placer County

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The report came in as suspicious activity inside a barn on uninhabited, farm property at the southwestern tip of Placer County, including the excited crowing of what sounded like dozens of roosters. When law enforcement arrived, they found a clutch of cars and trucks leading to the barn. And when they entered, the dozen or so people inside started to scatter. Placer County sheriff’s deputies had discovered a cockfight in progress and as the roundup outside progressed with the aid of a helicopter, evidence of the bloody battles between birds was pervasive inside the barn. In all, 56 roosters came out of the barn. Seventeen had been killed, sliced and stabbed by razor-sharp cockspurs that were attached to the roosters’ legs for a fight to the death in a makeshift ring fashioned from plywood and boards. The 17 bodies were found dumped unceremoniously into a 55-gallon steel drum. Tim Goffa, senior supervising animal control officer, said that Placer County Animal Services was called to take in the surviving roosters. Of the 39 that were still alive inside the Country Acres Lane barn April 3, 32 were deemed healthy enough to be housed at the county’s livestock barn off Richardson Drive in North Auburn. The other seven were euthanized because of their injuries by a veterinarian. “It’s unfortunate,” said Mike Winters, Animal Services program manager. “They don’t lay eggs, they’re not good for cooking and they’ll kill other chickens.” The birds, which will also be put down because no owner is expected to come forward and claim them, are part of a an illegal blood sport that continues throughout California, despite efforts by law enforcement and animal rights groups to curtail it. At the site, a dozen people were rounded up. They’ll walk away with a misdemeanor infraction for taking part in a cockfight. For Goffa, who has worked in animal services posts for 39 years, the discovery of another cockfighting ring in Placer County is not a surprise. He’s seen them shut down in the middle of urban areas as well as farm country. In recent months, El Dorado authorities broke up a cock-fighting operation at a Garden Valley site and euthanized nearly 250 roosters. Sacramento County law enforcement shut down a cockfight near the Country Acres Lane location a day earlier. And there was a recent bust in South Sacramento that led to the arrest of six people for cockfighting. Gambling is a big part of the event, with a digital scale sporting a round wooden dowel on the top providing a perch for the fighting bird to be weighed in. Animal Services confiscated betting cards from the Elverta barn, as well as cages and several sets of cockspurs manufactured in Mexico, where cockfighting remains legal. But with an average fine of $400, the Humane Society of the United States is pressing for penalties for being involved in a cockfight in California that will make participants think a little harder about taking part. “People say, ‘Oh they have cockfighting there, that must make it a bad area,’” Goffa said. “But it’s not. It’s all over the state.”