Public Health

Margaret Williams

(530) 621-6243
El Dorado County Investigates Alleged Cockfighting Operation Nearly 250 Fighting Game Birds Found on Garden Valley Property Margaret Williams (530) 621-6243 2011-02-17 Public Health

El Dorado County Animal Services, in collaboration with the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office and the Humane Society of the United States, is investigating what appears to be a fairly large scale cockfighting operation at a residence in Garden Valley. Nearly 250 game birds were found on the Garden Valley property this past weekend, along with fighting implements, and other evidence of cockfighting. Two people have been arrested.

“It appears that this was a significant operation,” said Henry Brzezinski, Chief of Animal Services. “Typically, large amounts of money, drugs and weapons are involved in cockfighting matches. There are also often other crimes and violence associated with these activities as well. This is definitely a situation we want to address if we suspect it is happening. We want to thank the Sheriff’s Office for their initiation of the investigation and their partnership on follow-up activities.”

According to Brzezinski, hidden cockfighting operations in El Dorado County communities and other rural areas of the Sacramento region are more common than most people realize. The birds used in cockfighting are bred to be aggressive by injecting them with powerful chemicals, stimulants and hormones, and by subjecting them to inhumane training methods. Prior to fighting, a knife (known as a slasher) is attached to one of the legs of each rooster and the birds are taunted into fighting one another until one usually dies from its injuries.

Cockfighting is illegal in the United States. Penalties vary from state to state. If convicted in California, penalties can include jail time and/or fines up to $5,000 for a first offense and $25,000 for a second offense. Brzezinski noted that while the states surrounding California consider cockfighting to be a felony offense, California considers it a misdemeanor. “This may be one of the reasons why we are seeing more cockfighting operations here,” said Brzezinski.

Unfortunately, none of the birds connected with the raid over the weekend in El Dorado County could be saved. “The birds were humanely euthanized because they were either in bad shape physically or their behavior was too aggressive for them to be rehabilitated,” said Brzezinski. The investigation is ongoing.

Animal Services encourages residents to report any suspected cockfighting activities in their neighborhood to the Sheriff’s Office or Animal Services. Signs of possible cockfighting activity include:

  • A large number of roosters tethered to a crude shelter or confined in pens
  • Roosters whose combs, wattles, or natural spurs have been cut off
  • Roosters with untreated wounds and/or other signs of neglect
  • A large number of chickens being bred and kept outside in unsafe or unsanitary conditions
  • The sound of many roosters crowing in remote areas, coupled with many people coming and going, especially on weekends and holidays

Animal Services staff can be reached at (530) 621-5795 in Placerville or at (530) 573-7925 in South Lake Tahoe. Additional information about Animal Services can also be found at

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Also see related press release from the Sheriff's Office