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California authorities "humanely euthanize" 143 roosters after cockfighting bust

Authorities broke up a large cockfighting event over the weekend and said they were forced to euthanize nearly 150 roosters found at a Southern California home, animal control and sheriff's department officials said.

Deputies late Friday discovered about 200 people at the residence in the city of Jurupa Valley and "evidence of an illegal cockfighting event and multiple deceased or severely injured birds," the Riverside County Sheriff's Department said in a statement.

An additional 143 birds were found in cages on the property about 50 miles east of Los Angeles, the statement said.

Cockfighting is a bloodsport in which two or more birds known as "gamecocks" fight in a pit, usually to the death, for entertainment and gambling purposes, according to the Humane Society of the United States.  The practice, which is outlawed in all 50 states, is often associated with other criminal activities, including illegal gambling, drug trafficking, gang activity and illegal weapon sales, according to the organization's website. 

Authorities broke up a large cockfighting event over the weekend and said they were forced to euthanize nearly 150 roosters found at a Southern California home Riverside County Department of Animal Services

Officers with the county's Department of Animal Services gathered all of the live roosters "and humanely euthanized them, a process that lasted until about 6 a.m.," according to a statement from that agency.

"The birds must be euthanized because Animal Services cannot adopt out such birds as they are valuable and they would almost always end up back in a cockfighting ring. They are not suitable as pets," according to the agency's statement.

An unidentified man who told officials he owned the birds was cited for possession of fighting blades, used in cockfighting, which is a misdemeanor, officials said. The investigation is continuing.

The razor-sharp steel blades, known as "gaffs," are usually tied to the birds' legs and are so sharp that cockfighters themselves have been killed by their own birds when accidentally slashed, the Humane Society said.

Birds that participate in cockfighting are often subjected to animal abuse, including being injected with steroids and being deprived of stimuli prior to fights and once in the ring often suffer injuries such as punctured lungs and pierced eyes, according to the Humane Society. 

Earlier this year, Texas officials seized 133 birds from a property in southeast Dallas where a cockfight had allegedly taken place. The SPCA of Texas took custody of the animals, including 123 roosters, eight hens and two dead roosters. 

Despite being outlawed in the U.S., cockfighting remains legal and popular in countries such as the Philippines, where it was temporarily banned during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Dominican Republic. 

In 2019, Puerto Rico defied the U.S. government and approved a law to keep cockfighting alive in a bid to protect a 400-year-old tradition practiced across the island, despite a federal ban that went into place that year. Puerto Rican officials claimed that the U.S. government banned fights for economic and not animal welfare reasons, but the Supreme Court elected to keep the ban upheld by the lower courts.

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