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County Codifies Rooster Limits

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Most San Diego County residents will be allowed to keep just one rooster under an ordinance approved today as part of an effort to curb problems related to the birds.

Most San Diego County residents will be allowed to keep just one rooster under an ordinance approved today as part of an effort to curb cockfighting, eliminate the potential for the birds to become a public nuisance and to insure they are kept in humane conditions.

The ordinance passed 4-1, with Chairman Bill Horn dissenting. At a previous meeting, Horn said cockfighting should be a felony, as it is some other states.

Colleague Dianne Jacob, the board supervisor, agreed.

"Cockfighting is a disgusting, barbaric activity which masquerades as a sport and creates overly aggressive roosters that are ultimately destroyed when animal services proceeds with enforcement action on the cockfighting rings," she said.

The ordinance requires roosters to be untethered and kept in humane conditions, with enough room to fully spread their wings. Enclosures must also be kept at least 50 feet from homes.

The limits, based on lot sizes, are set to take effect Jan. 1, to give people time to comply with the ordinance.

Properties of less than a half-acre will be limited to one rooster.

Up to four roosters will be allowed on lots of at least an acre, six on five acres, and as many as 20 roosters on properties larger than five acres.

The new rules will not apply to commercial poultry operations, approved 4-H Clubs or Future Farmers of America projects, schools, animal shelters or animal welfare organizations which employ humane officers.

Under state law it is a misdemeanor to keep, possess or train any bird with the intent of using it for fighting. Several counties have passed similar laws in an effort to stop cockfighting.

"Cockfighting, like dog fighting, are criminal activities and, unfortunately, California does not punish them sufficiently," Supervisor Pam Slater-Price said.

Since 2000, Department of Animal Services investigations have resulted in more than 100 arrests, confiscation of cockfighting paraphernalia, such as spurs or gaffs, and the euthanasia of thousands of fighting birds, according to county data. Each year, the department's officers conduct thousands of investigations, ranging from minor violations to felony animal cruelty cases.

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