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December 06, 2011

Cracking Down on Cockfighting in San Bernardino County

There are thousands of law enforcement officials working to enforce laws against animal cruelty, and we owe them a great debt. We cannot have animal protection without the rule of law. The HSUS works closely with law enforcement to assist with animal rescues, offer rewards, and provide trainings on illegal animal fighting. And among the best of the law enforcement professionals is San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos, who fights against cruelty in the nation’s largest county by land area.

A rooster from a cockfighting case
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department

It was three years ago that District Attorney Ramos brought cruelty charges against workers at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Company–the first time that such charges were ever brought against workers in a meat-packing plant.

This week, he announced a new campaign against cockfighting, which is widespread in California even though it’s been illegal for more than a century. California upgraded its laws against cockfighting this year, but the underlying penalty for the cockfighting and related crimes like possessing the animals and maintaining a pit is just a misdemeanor. Because every surrounding state treats cockfighting as a felony, it makes California a tempting target for people to ply their illegal enterprise.

But Ramos and other county district attorneys and sheriffs are no longer treating cockfighting as a petty crime. Since 2008, there have been more than 110 law enforcement incidents involving cockfighting across 35 of California’s 58 counties. More than 21,000 birds have been found (some alive, some already dead) in connection with the blood sport during that time, and The HSUS and our animal fighting unit have been at the center of so many of these raids.

Ramos’ YouTube video reminds all law enforcement officers in the county and outside of it about the importance of animal cruelty crimes, and also about their link to other criminal behavior. Along with his awareness campaign, Ramos has also announced he’s intent on making cockfighting a felony in the state. We’ll be right with him in that crusade.

P.S. Today, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; and Scott Brown, R-Mass., introduced legislation to make it a federal crime to bring a child to an animal fight or to be a spectator at an animal fight. The House companion bill–H.R. 2492, introduced in July by Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., and Betty Sutton, D-Ohio–already has 130 cosponsors.

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