We were curious about an agenda item for the Merced County Planning Commission that appeared in late February: "To permit (legalize) the raising of up to 40 roosters as a hobby and occasional sales, on a 9.7 acre parcel."
When we read further, we realized we'd passed this rooster ranch in Stevinson not long before and had commented that someone must be raising fighting cocks on the site. There seemed no other explanation for a field full of little pens holding individual roosters that did not look like White Leghorns or Plymouth Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Araucanas, Banties or any other typical barnyard variety of chicken. They looked like gamecocks. It was our general impression that cockfighting is supposed to be illegal in California, although it is a law widely disobeyed since its passage. We were also aware of something of a campaign against raising gamefowl in the county in recent years and a number of cockfight busts. So, we, the perpetually ignorant public, wondered what this agenda item could be doing in front of the planning commission rather than on the Sheriff's blotter. We asked someone at a county office about it, but she just rolled her eyes and said she didn't always read the documents she distributed.
Members of the public called the editorial board and suggested they watch the video of the planning commission meeting. They said it was one of the most mysterious moments they had ever witnessed in local government.
We watched the videotape of the planning commission and took notes, but when we reviewed our notes they didn't make much sense. Eventually, we decided to transcribe both the planning commission hearing and the appeal hearing before the Board of Supervisors. We confess that after transcribing and rereading the two hearings several times, we aren't sure that we gained much more understanding.
However, we became fascinated with this story about the raising of gamefowl roosters in the United States. In fact, it doesn't take much research into the issue to discover that cock fighting is a significant, consistent theme in the history of US sporting and gaming life, and that any theory that this is strictly a "problem" limited to the cultures of recent immigrants is as ludicrous as most such claims.
Searching the Internet for several hours, we found that the vast majority of websites concerning gamefowl are about cock fights, breeds and their various characteristics in the pits. When one tries to find some mention of a show champion -- as in an exhibit at a county fair or other venue where chickens are shown, not pitted -- he will be steered to stories of fabled roosters, their records, their bloodlines, etc. We found no pictures of 4-H or FFA youthful exhibitors standing proudly before gamefowl roosters, with or without dubbed combs and wattles. We are not denying such records exist, only that we couldn't find any on the Internet.
One editorial board member, who has spent most of his life in rural California, has seen fighting cocks in several counties and heard about cockfights in every county he's ever worked in. Polling the members of the public, we found universal cynical humor regarding participants at cockfights. No member admitted to ever having been to a cockfight, but all assured us that prominent (unnamed) members of the community attended them, sometimes creating a delicate, political problem for law enforcement. We thought one member's remark, "half the (undesignated) city council," might have been hyperbolic. The editorial board could only remember one Valley district attorney, one lettuce grower and a lone labor contractor that it could affirm with confidence bred and/or fought gamecocks.
Cockfighting today in the Valley appears to be of interest to law enforcement primarily because of illegal drug and firearm sales and violence that occur at meets. Beyond that, in the center of the state's poultry industry, there are concerns about the spread of avian diseases because gamecocks are brought across state and national lines to compete.
Any ideas about the content of the two public hearings transcribed below or why they were held at all would be pure speculation.
Badlands Journal editorial board
I. The gamecock queen
Merced County Planning Commission Public Hearing on Administrative Permit Application No. AA08-054
February 25, 2009
Present: Chairman Lynn Tanner, commissioners Cynthia Lashbrook, Jack Mobley, Rudy Buendia; Absent: Commissioner Mark Erreca.
The Planning Department staff report for the February 25 planning commission meeting was prepared by Jeff Fugelsang. The property owner who applied for the administrative permit was Ernesto Manarrez, who describes himself in a letter to the Planning Department as "a Spanish speaking and a deaf individual."
The application for the permit arose from a complaint filed with the County.
The County Planning Department Code Compliance Division Request for Code Enforcement complaint against "Monarrez Merced, 24220 W. third, Stevinson CA," filed on June 16, 2008, stated: "This property has probably 600-1,000 chickens, at least 100 rooster pens, and goats. There are two houses on this property and one of the houses is being rented to a (illegible) relative. The renters have 12 bull calfs (Holsteins) approx. (either 300 or 800, illegible handwriting) lb per animal in a 60 ft. x 30 ft. area. They also have 15 goats in the same area. The fly's and the smell is overwhelming. There is also a lot of traffic that comes from this property. The roosters are fighing cocks but do not know if they are fighting on the property." The form notes that the zoning is A-1 (agricultural) and that it is in the 4th supervisorial district (Kelsey).
The complainant's name and other particulars are redacted from the form.
The request, again, was to:
"To permit (legalize) the raising of up to 40 roosters as a hobby and occasional sales, on a 9.7 acre parcel." The parcel is located on Third Ave. in Stevinson in the supervisorial district of Deidre Kelsey.
The Planning staff report recommended denial on three bases:
1. Forty roosters in open air pens are inconsistent with the agricultural chapter of the General Plan.
2. The project is incompatible with adjacent rural residental land uses.
3. Three letters from adjacent landowners strongly opposed the permit application.
The applicant had been raising over 100 roosters and owned more than 200 rooster pens. When confronted by the county code enforcement officer, brought there by a neighbor's formal, signed complaint, the owner stated that the purpose of his activity was for hobby shows/exhibitions, family consumption, and periodic offsite sales. Code-enforcement staff reported:
"Staff asked family to produce sales receipts, membership to associations, breeding certificates, showmanship or exihibitor awards," the staff report continued. "The applicants state they could not produce such evidence for the record. Therefore, staff has no evidentiary basis to support the applicants explanation that the project is merely for hobby purposes and family consumption ..."
After this February 25, 2009 hearing, however, the applicant procured a "Certificate of Award" on March 7, 2009 in Ceres. (see Appendix A.)
At the hearing, Planning Department staff reported that Monarrez's facility is not a business and has no employees. "They say they are in no way related to cocking fighting." It consists of a number of open-air rooster pens behind 6' chainlink fence. There are four residences less than 450 feet from roosters.
Agricultural-1 zoning permits up to two roosters per parcel, any more are subject to the animal confinement ordinance -- therefore this is an incompatible use. The planning department found that there were an excessive number of roosters, they are aggressive, and there is excessive traffic to the place. Individuals other than the owner may be raising the roosters.
Hilmar Municipal Advisory Council voted unanimously against it.
Staff recommended three alternatives:
1. No more than two roosters, remove the rest in 30 days.
2. Aplicants prepare and Initial Study under CEQA.
3. Commission could decide to grant a "common sense" exemption under CEQA and approve permit.
The public hearing begins: (editorial board comments in italics)
Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook: The cooperative neighbors. Which side are they on?
Planner Jeff Fugelsang: West side.
Lashbrook: ... roosters per acre. that means two regardless of acreage -- half to ten?
Lashbrook: A lot of farms out there are more hobby than business. Sometimes I think mine is.
Fugelsang: Yes, it's for hobby.
Lashbrook: In general, cost of the IS, from what to what range?
County Planning Director Bobby Lewis: Depends on scope of analysis, impacts, potential impacts. So it's hard to give a number, especially with something like this...we really haven't come across it too much.
Planning Commission Chairman Tanner announces that the hearing is open for public comment. No one comments.
Tanner: Well commissioners, before we...
Lashbrook: I'm understanding the recommendation pretty much... First, that many roosters, hard to believe no relation to cockfighting, but uh, I know some people just love their critturs. I know somebody who raises goats and never eats them ..uh... on his farm too.
People have different reasons. I am just having a hard time that the country can't be the country anymore.
(A chicken in every pot and a cockfight in every barn? -- ed.)
To me looking at the second alternative where we're really making sure they understand what would be OK and not OK and possibly having to respond -- it sounded like there would be fewer roosters and less of a problem and more managed and less going on...their neighbors... I'm just having a hard time with your bad (unintelligible)... This is the country. This is ten acres. I'm sure when they bought this there wasn't this kind of issues ... that's just what everybody did and there's going to be no reason not to plant subdivisions if you can't have a rural-like property and do rural ag...What would kick in the CAPO sort of thing, the confined animal ...?
Fugelsang: well, first of all they would have to operate as an agricultural commercial operation. That's the first requirement under animal confinement facilities. The second is that a lot of development standards would have to be met and site improvements and that would also create an issue regarding this project and so...
Lashbrook: And the other thing I'm having trouble with is if they had a half an acre cut off they could have two roosters and they have ten acres and can only have two roosters...to me that's not dealing with the reality of what the holding capacity of that land is, without raising ... and you could easily raise 40-100 chickens on a property that large especially if you were moving them around and not having much in the way of environmental degradation...putting them all in one place all the time, manure and things like that would be a problem ...mmmm, I'm just...we're probably going to have to deny this I imagine but I just...I'm hoping the maybe with the General Plan, uh, we can come up with something that is a little more realistic (a category for commercial production of fighting cocks, perhaps) for rural living ... that we're not just turning these into, uh,large subdivision lots with all that ... those kinds of restrictions. It would be great for me if somebody in the family would come up and talk about what's going on. I was hoping we would get a little bit more of that .... board ... (Note: the family did not come up when the public comment period was open.)
Commissioner Jack Mobley (to staff): How long have these residences been there? I mean the houses in question, how long have they been ...?
Fugelsang: They've been existing for some time now. They are not new residences at all.
Mobley: How long have ... the chickens been there, also? ... Is this a recent deal where they just recently moved these chickens in or...?
Fugelsang: Not that I'm aware of.
Tanner: Yes. Why don't you come up to the podium and give your name and address for the record. No, the hearing is still closed but Mr. Mobley would like to speak to her so that's why she's coming up.
The podium microphone was turned off and it was impossible to hear the speaker's name. We gathered later that there were two Monarrez daughters and that the first to speak was the younger daughter.
Younger Daughter: Yeah, they've been in that property almost 16 years and he always had chickens and roosters and we had no problems until this ... a neighbor moved in to the east almost five years ago and she's been complaining and it's been a problem.
Mobley: So, your parents have had that same number of chickens and roosters?
Younger Daughter: They had more. My dad wasn't aware he was supposed to get a permit and we already sent a letter explaining that, but yeah, he had even more than that. There were times when he had more than 150.
Mobley: And there hadn't been a problem until this one neighbor moved in (Younger Daughter is shaking her head negatively)
Younger Daughter: Yeah, until this happened almost five years ago. This is a dispute between neighbors and this shouldn't got this far, I think. My dad has been doing this -- as a hobby -- uh, uh, since he moved to the Valley I think in 1987 and that's his life, it's his hobby. Like I said, he's an elderly person, he uh, I mean, if you guys can uh, give him his permit for his .... for his hobby because that's what keeps him going. He's 78 and (dramatic pause) and he never had any problems with anybody except for with this lady.
Lashbrook: Would it be possible to move where the chickens are concentrated over closer to the neighbor that doesn't mind them on the other side of the property?
Younger Daughter: It would be a lot of work but if worse comes to worse he'll be able to do it. It's just give us the time, enough time to do it and we'll do it.
Mobley: It's a 10-acre piece, right?
Younger Daughter. Umhuh.
Mobley: I mean could the chickens be moved further to the back there? It looked like there weren't any residences in the back. Hear what I'm saying?
Lashbrook: Yeah, he needs to have them where they can take care of them.
Fugelsang: It's in the staff report. If the Planning Commission were to choose the common sense exemption, and recommend approval, staff...in the staff report recommends that the pens would be relocated to the rear of the property furthest away from all adjacent residences.
Younger Daughter: And I also wanted to mention something. The neighbor complains because she placed the trailer backwards. The, the entrance is in the back. That's the reason why she started complaining because of flies and ... I mean uh, there is dairies everywhere and she got the problem by putting the trailer facing the backyard instead of, you know, doing it the right way. So now my dad is paying for that.
Lashbrook: Is the 10 acres fenced at this time, the full 10 acres or, uh ...
Younger Daughter: I'm sorry?
Lashbrook: I mean is there a fence all around the property?
Younger Daughter: Yes it is. It has a ... it's not a high fence. I think it is a four-feet fence.
Lashbrook: And with the nature of roosters, each one of them is in their own confinement area.
Younger Daughter: Yes.
Lashbrook: So they don't ...
Younger Daughter: Umhum ... And, ah, my dad is an animal lover and there is no way he would be mistreating his roosters at all. I mean they are very well taken care of. I mean we are open for you to come and check the property at any time. You would not find anything illegal in it. There's never been any illegal activities and never will. We know that.
Lashbrook: hmmming ix ... I'm not sure what this next looks like ... most of this area tends to drain pretty well ... During any kind of storm event or anything does water tend to stay there ... through that area...?
Younger Daughter: No. the soil is uh kind of sand so it goes in fast....
Mobley: This picture here has the red square in the back. Is that the alternative if we did find that he could have the chickens and that would be where he'd have to put 'em?
Fugelsang: That would be the ideal location. As you can see the buffer there is about 900-1,000 feet.
Mobley: It would be right at a thousand feet from this lady's trailer?
Fugelsang: Yeah, from all adjacent residences.
Lashbrook: If the chickens were moved that far out, would Mr. Monarrez be able to get out there with his age and, uh, again, with fence, would it be ... I'm worried about predators and stuff with chickens ... but would they be able to be fenced and taken care of?
Younger Daughter: That would be our only concern, for people to come in the middle of the night and steal them or something like that. But, he had, I wish that it is recommended to don't move it way to the back because that would be a lot of these fences involved doing that and they don't have that kind of money to do (she turns to someone talking to her from the audience)
Tanner: If you wanna talk you need to come up to the front...No, it's not a hearing. If they want to listen to 'em we can bring 'em up. But, you just can't stand up. You're gonna wait and if they (commissioners) would like to hear your testimony, then they can receive your testimony but you have to see if they want to do that. We've already closed the public hearing so you can't just come up here and talk, so it's up to these commissioners if they'd like to have her testimony or not.
Lashbrook: Maybe, Mr. Gabriele (Assistant County Counsel) ... we're asking more detail on what they're thinking ... I'm not sure if we need to open the rest of the public hearing (What rest of the public hearing? It's closed -- the chairman just said that. -- ed)
Gabriele: It really depends on the extent and nature of the inquiry. If, if it's so broad ... and it seems to me that it would be appropriate to have the commission decide whether it wants to reopen the, uh, hearing, uh, then, because if there is so much testimony from the applicant, then ... it introduces new elements and new issues, then, of course, that's part of the purpose of public access to then have comment. And that would be my recommendation. But, it's a judgment call as to the nature and the extent of the inquiry ... eh, eh ... particularly if you're going to have more than one representative of the applicant inputting.
Lashbrook: I wouldn't mind opening the hearing again. You know, not everybody, um, is used to the public process and therefore, you know, and again, I was kind of expecting someone to come and speak during that open process and they didn't. So, to me, I would um, entertain ... if you would, Mr. Chairman, to reopen the public hearing.
Tanner: Mr. Mobley? (Mobley nods affirmatively) OK. So we're going to reopen the public hearing and both sides can either talk for or against this. OK, now we'll limit the comments to 5 minutes as procedure for the thing. Any other questions for her?
Lashbrook: No. But, uh, it looks like we have her sister, I believe (Lashbrook giggles and gasps). Um, just to answer that question...
Older Daughter (Younger Daughter stands next to her) : My name is ... I am Ernesto Monarrez' older daughter and I just want to say this point that it is very unfair that they're trying to ... for this unhappy neighbor to make my dad get rid of his animals and also make him do a lot of movements (younger daughter leaves podium) like I'm hearing about putting a fence around ... 'cause my dad has been doing so well with his animals, he's a very animal lover and just because an unhappy neighbor, they move there for the past five years. She moved into an area where she expect all this , ah, environment. So, to me it's very silly to, ah, kind of listen to somebody who is very unhappy and wants to hurt my dad. To me it's very painful because my dad has had a stroke on 1999, he recuperate from that and the way he recuperate is because he was walking around his animals. I mean, that's his life! So, in 2007 he has a heart attack. And again, his daughters, we as a family we alway offer him: "Come and live with us. You're getting older. You need somebody to take care of you." But, he doesn't want to move away because that's his life, right there, taking care of his animals. That's what give him life. And to listen to somebody that is bitter and live in a place where she's gonna face all these problems. I'm sorry to say it but if she's not happy, she needs to move away from ah, ah, from our country. And I don't think, ah, to me it is very unfair what she is doing. The lady is very unhappy. And if there is not a good place for her to live there, move away! Don't leave ... Leave my dad alone! Because that's not fair. My dad is 78 years old and he been living there 16 years and the purpose he move into the valley is because he wanna continue doing his hobby. He loves to do that since he was a young man. And so, please, that's my only ... that's my feelings and I have to express it to all of you this morning. Thank you.
Tanner: Thank you. Is there anyone else who'd like to testify?
Tom Grave: Good morning, commissioners, my name is Tom Grave. I live in Merced. I, uh, uh, was curious about a couple of points. One is, according to the record, ah, there was a pattern of neglect of other animals on this property. The word was "negligent" but I don't think the animals were negligent. The people were negligent so it was a pattern of neglect that I'm sure ... I'm surprised it seems to have escaped your comment this morning. Another issue I have is the MAC (Hilmar-Stevinson Municipal Advisory Council) I hope looked at this in a circumspect manner and it was a unanimous vote against this project by the MAC and I think those are your people, your lieutenants on the ground out there and I was wondering if there was a document ... I didn't read what their reasons might have been, but, uh, but I like to see the commissioners respect the judgment there unless there's some compelling evidence to the contrary. I think these zoning issues, I mean the zones are created for some reasons and it just perplexes me that you might be tempted to overturn whatever those reasons might have been. But, again, I'm concerned about this pattern of neglect of animals on the property and, uh, and perhaps you have questions for the planning commission ... uh, the planning department, upon that. Here, the planning department is recommending against it with good information. And the MAC is recommending against it. So, I'm just perplexed that there is some leaning here today in favor of this project...I don't see the evidence that would support that.
Mobley: I don't think that my questions are just gathering information, but, uh, I'm just trying to figure out the whole entirety of this situation. I'm not leaning one way or the other.
Grave: I appreciate that. There have been some comments about moving it over here or over there and so forth. I'm just surprised that, uh, some of these other issues aren't more compelling so far as your comments today ... the neglect of other creatures there and the MAC's unanimous verdict. I think that should carry some weight with the commission. Perhaps, it doesn't. Perhaps it does, as I'm suggesting. It just hasn't been voiced by any of you, this morning. So, with all due respect I do appreciate the chance to tesify this morning. Thank you, Mr. Tanner.
Tanner: Thank you, Tom. OK, so is there anyone else who wants to testify for or against this application? OK. So we will again close the public hearing. Commissioner Lashbrook?
Lashbrook: OK. As far as the neglect ... I'd have to read through this again ...I thought I had ... um ... I'm not sure how unbiased a source the neglect was from. Uh, uh, it wasn't ...it didn't sound like it was repeated or from any place else except possibly the disgruntled neighbor. So, I didn't see that it was a pattern, and complaints can, you know, be pretty subjective. So, that was one I really didn't see. I-I had been planning to ask how many of these were eaten or used for food by the people that live there. I mean it is an Ag-1 zone. If I have 90 acres I can only have two roosters. If I have 120 acres, I can only have two roosters.
Fugelsang: Well, you could have more if you were an agricultural commercial operation. If you raise the roosters to sell or for consumption and you made the animal confinement facility ... if you met the standards for lot development, you could have more than two. But we do have standards for that sort of thing and in the zoning code it clearly states that only two roosters are allowed.
Lashbrook: And how long has that been active?
Fugelsang: I'm not exactly sure.
Lashbrook: ... a rooster ordinance ...
Assistant Planning Director Bill Nicholson: Well, there is a little bit of a conflict in the code. Right now in the code, the animal confinement ordinance is for mammals. It took years to adopt that. We used to call it the dairy ordinance. But, it was all designed to deal with animals, the manure and the lagoon. And poultry is very different. There is a separate ordinance for poultry. (Lashbrook is grunting in the background) That ordinance hasn't been updated for probably 25-30 years. It's on the list of things to do with Environmental Heath but it hasn't updated. So, right now in the permitting process there's an overlap of using the animal confinement ordinance up to the certain point, then using the poultry ordinance for poultry operations. So this one, in terms of calling it 'animal confinement,' you go to the animal confinement ordinance, you look at the list of animals, and poultry -- chickens, roosters, turkeys -- are not even listed. Ah, it talks about pigs, goats, cows, and other mammals, goats...Anyway, that's the dilemma. When you become a poultry operation we're usually talking about Foster Farms, Gemperli Egg Laying, they're just designed to be commercial operations. (More grunts by Lashbrook) Their ordinance wasn't designed for people having roosters in their backyard for a hobby. The roosters became a bigger problem because of cockfighting and the nuisance value of that. And usually they're not raising roosters for income because people aren't buying the meat and they're not buying the eggs as much as just having regular chickens. So there is a little disconnect right now in ... not in the zoning code but in the poultry ordinance being much older than the animal confinement ordinance and all the new rules are really geared toward mammals. So, we're trying to make this thing fit right now in the zoning code, the animal confinement and the poultry, and that's why it's a little bit more of a dilemma. And Commissioner Mobley's question about the 300 foot, um, there's discussion in the old poultry ordinance about the 300 foot, but that's not used anymore ... a thousand foot is the new rule. This isn't establishing something new. It's kind of legalizing something that's been there and his home is well within a thousand feet so we're using the 300-foot thing as a kind of a guide but it's not a hard and fast rule;
Tanner: OK. So how long has the rule been for two roosters per parcel?
Nicholson: That's probably been since about 1995 since we did the comprehensive zone code revision.
Tanner: OK, so it's been around for quite awhile.
Lashbrook: It sounds like after he bought the property with this purpose in mind. Um, just, again, um, a keyfo (we have no idea what she's talking about either) or even a dairy ordinance, figuring there's going to be 200 rather large mammals ... two thousand or twenty thousand together ... and how that mass might affect ... or be ... or do ... Usually Mr. Grave and I are not so diametrically opposed but I know that some of these ... I know ... d-d-d- ... Would there be a way, um, to give this only to Mr. Monarrez, only as long as he is able to care for them and this purpose ... only could be granted ... uh, uh ... whatdya call that? Twilight it out...(ha-ha)...that it wouldn't be able to be used any more by any other person and the family ... and that the exemption ... can we do something like that?
Mobley: I think you're going down a slippery slope when you start doing that stuff with public policy and ...
Lashbrook: I understand that but I asked a question
Mobley: I dunno. I just (Lashbrook interrupts him with grunts)
Lashbrook: I mean have we done it for other types of things.
Nicholson: Yeah. We have not. There's only one exception to that. The zoning codes, the permits, the CUPs, run with the land, so if you sell the property whoever buys it can continue the same use. The only exception we have is for the mobile food vendors. Some of them ... the food vendors that come and serve lunch and dinner ... on the same site, and because of problems we have with maintenance and trash, we have a provision in the zoning code that the operator gets the permit, not the property owner. So, once an operator ... that mobile food operator ... moves off the property, if the owner wants to bring somebody else in they have to get a new permit. So, for every other use, the CUP ... goes to the property and it can be tranferred to whoever else ....
Lashbrook (interrupting): Could you put a limit on it, say for five years or ten years?
Nicholson: Yeah, we have limited operations or uses before. You're allowed to convert it to a review. We'll come back in a year or two and see if they've cleaned it up or whatever. Time limits have been imposed.
Lashbrook: And Jeff (staff), is there room along the east side ... is that where the neighbor is who is unhappy> ... what ... uh ... is there room there to put up a berm ... a soil berm?
Fugelsang: Um, I do not believe so. As you can see on this aerial, again the red indicates where the pens are located and the adjacent residence of the neighbor who filed the first complaint is currently 120 feet away from where the rooster pens are and I believe there's probably only 20 feet from where the pens are to the property line, maybe a little more. But I don't believe they'd actually have enough room to construct something of that nature.
Lashbrook: erksk eahg...Trees and plants don't do a lot for noise but they do for dust and sight, so if a berm could be put up ... probably at least eight feet and then covered with some vegetation, probably that could buffer a lot from that, ehhh (and one of Lashbrook's companies could get the landscaping contract?--ed). Um, again, I'm just really wondering what we're trying to turn country living into. Ehhh. Maybe, even cut it down to a smaller number but ... I've had one-to-four votes a lot of times. I'm just really having trouble with this. (Law -- it's so inflexible!--ed). And I would also like to be in on the discussion on pasture and poultry and pasture dairy among other things are much different than a normal CAPO and I want to make sure that we are allowing for a lot of that new amph... when we're writing our code.
Tanner: Mr. Mobley? Do you have any comments?
Mobley: No. I just, I just am sympathetic to the gentleman raising his, uh, animals. But there's also, we have, we've got, you know, a policy and regulation in place that, uh, that, uh, is there for a reason. I think it is, I hate that there can't be some accommodation by the neighbor and say, "Hey, this is just not a problem, maybe move them a little further back or something like that," But I hate that we have to come down here and get nitpicky about it but we have rules on the books that need to be enforced and we can't show favoritism one way or another. You know, we have to be dispassionate and apply the rules as we have 'em. So, I would, you know ...
Lashbrook: But, but, we also do a lot of variances on other things. We decide when and where we're following set rule and policy. A lot of times, that's part of our job. Um, but ehhh, do...understan...said that he moved into that property before the last -- sounds like before that last ordinance was put in. Um, maybe we need to do a better job educating people what's OK not OK, um, before it gets to this point...something goes out in their little tax bills. Um, um ...
Mobley: Usually, you know, when we've issued variances, things like this church steeple that's coming up later on in the agenda, you know there's not any folks, uh, uh, that are voicing any opposition to it. You know we don't usually get a crowd and like the MAC and this lady and you know a couple other neighbors that are opposed to this ... I mean we wouldn't necessary do an exemption in that kind of situation, you know, when we've got folks opposed to what we want to do..
Tanner: The other thing is you get disease and everything else on a small operation like that, there's no way that we can control that. But, if they've got an animal confinement, yeah. So those are a part of the reasons why they put that in. I know that I sit on different things with poultry and (Lashbrook: umhum) they're very concerned about disease going with the poultry. I don't know if there are any other chicken farms very close to that, but I remember doing one where they had ... when the farm was across the river and they were concerned, so we have to be very careful when we go ahead and say we can go ahead and allow this and what's going to keep the next guy from coming in and saying, "Hey, I want four roosters, too," or "I want 150 roosters, too." Then, what we're doing is we're opening it up for this person to do that, so we need to lay it across, you know, that's one of the reasons why we have the animal confinement is for protection of the neighbors and everyone else. That's why we're here.
Mobley: Yeah, that's the slippery slope I was talking about.
Lashbrook: I'm more worried about the environment. Um, a lot of those ordinances is what has basically turned our small-lot agriculture into subdivisions because, you know, it just consolidates all the marketing, all the sales, all the protection ... so they protect themselves in most every way. So, as far as the biohazard of having other birds nearby ... um ... and I jus' ... that just cuts down on everybody else's ability to raise a small flock.
Mobley: There is a vehicle in place if they want to go to the expense of doing this on this property. Correct? The animal confinement ordinance where they could make the improvements, whatever, and they could actually have ... they could call it a commercial chicken operation and just not run it as one, but they'd have to put in the money to make the improvements to where it is healthy and yadayadayada ...
Lashbrook: But Mr. Nicholson just said, I mean, we'd basically just be making that up as we went along. Uh, for this situation ... uh, the chicken ... and they don't really have that together yet. And (sigh), again, zzzzztt, there's a population level where it mmblnnm... I'm the only farmer on this board right now, I think. Are you a farmer? Um, and I live out in the country and I deal with ... I mean I don't like it, being an organic farmer, when my neighbors spray and the cloud comes over my farm or the river bottom. Um, there's a lot of different things that I'm not gonna ... I may try to get them into stop their pesticide over the ... you know, across the road. But, uh, I'm not going to report them. I (sigh) again, I know we have some stuff on the books but I'm just wondering who ... who made that up. I think 40 may be too many. I don't know if he could, uh, uh, it would be worth waking up in the morning for 20? I mean I've raised a small flock of chickens before and I don't know because I'm too close to the river and I haven't built a chicken fortress. But, I knew all along that if I had to, I'd put them down low so I wouldn't have Foster Farms coming down and saying you can't have chickens, you might make it dirty, while I get their feathers and some dead ones ... they don't fall out of the trucks as much as they used to over my place ... (sigh) It's just, again, you're into individual property rights and stuff and just sometimes (sigh) ... sometimes. He's been their 16 years from the last ordinance and she's only been there five -- I've dealt with country people before ... um ... you know and not wanted dust from all the trucks that drive by with their loads of almonds when those trucks are driving by for years and years before they move in they think there's something new, you know, that they need new considerations ... and I'm just ... to me this is just a morality play (sniffling, perhaps almost in tears) ... um ... I'm having trouble with, uh, the fact that this gentleman can't raise his livestock and pets. Oh, that was the other question I had: Um, how many dogs can somebody raise on 10 acres? Is there a limit?
Nicholson: Usually it's for your own domestic use, say three or four dogs and then once you start breeding you gotta get an administrative permit for either breeding or a kennel. So, really, it's for your own use. I mean if you have four dogs and they have puppies you might have 15 for a little while but (Cindy groans) you have to move them off. Especially commercially, then you have to get a permit.
Lashbrook: OK. Rabbits?
Nicholson: Rabbits. Yeah, that's actually part of the animal confinement. All mammals, except for dogs and cats, that's for another type, but other animals that are raised for some commodity, for pelts, for meat, for whatever, for milk, that's totally regulated by the animal confinement ordinance.
Tanner: OK. Rudy (Buendia, the Silent Commissioner), do you have something? (Buendia silently indicates he has nothing--ed.)
Tanner: OK. We want to ... the commission ... You know I think the thing comes down is it's either they need to make it an animal confinement or we say, no they don't need to do that and we let it slide. So, basically, I think we just have to go ahead and decide what we want to do as a commission and make a decision on it. Mr. Mobley?
Mobley: I,I, I mean there's a vehicle in place where it can happen if they want to spend the money to do it. But, I feel badly that this gentleman would not be able to continue to do what he wants to do on his land. I mean I think he and his neighbor, I mean they ought to be able to work it out. But, if the neighbor who wants to press the test on this and there is a law on the books saying what can and can't be done in this zoning. Um, and you know you got some negative comments from the MAC and some of the neighbors and this one lady, and, yeah, it's a violation, and you know, I think that when we start, you know, piecemealing, you know, adherence to the regulations, you know you end up with defeating the whole idea of having regulations in the first place. Um, I just don't want to start setting that precedent where we start massaging the zoning code you know for different situations (like UC Merced???). You know, I'd like to see them spend the money and do the animal confinement ordinance and be able to keep his chickens there, but, uh...
Lashbrook: Do you have any idea how many thousands of dollars that would cost? It cold be a hundred thousand dollars. Uh, or more.
Mobley: I understand that.
Lashbrook: Um, for a couple of years ... and again, we actually do not have, it sounds to me, an applicable regulation here and that we're working on it; it needs to be worked on and maybe this kind of situation, uh, you know, needs to be thought of in a more complete way. And there's good people out there...that-that-that...are running smaller flocks and things like that ... I'm not sure that they're all keeeplll, but it's almost like we need to put a work group together to uh, something like that. The Burroughs, some of that family has pasture chickens. Of course, they've got dairy too, so they're used to the regulation. But, uh, ahhh, personally I would like to -- do, did we get any comments from the MAC other than the vote? Is anything that ... is that listed?
Fugelsang: I can testify to that. The MAC, what happened when we decided to recommend denial, they decided to support staff's decision. They, uh, they voiced their concerns about having that many roosters on the property and that it was more than the zone code allowed in the zone-code table and however I think their main decision was based on staff's recommendation.
Lashbrook: They weren't really humpset ... and, again, zone code having two roosters on ... most of the lots in that area, I know ... most of them are a half an acre or larger but I just ... that it's not per square foot or per acre or anything ... that's kind of mmmffacious, tell me. I can see that he should at least be able to have 10. I mean these guys, they don't take up much room ... um, there's ways to raise them that they can be pretty compatable ... and in fact they can be really good for, ah, pest management and stuff, and on a, on a farmstead-type block like that. Um, I think we've got some work to do on this regulation and I kind of hate to ... I mean I just wish we could let this guy go for another year or two while we're getting these things worked out. Maybe even cut it in half of what's he's looking for. 'ut, when you're used to having a bunch of critturs. Um, that's what you're used to having. He had this before the last, uh, before that last code on the chickens was put in. I just, I just don't think -- why -- it was well thought out. Um, wha' regulation, code? I always get those words screwed up. But, uh, I don't like, I would like to see some trees out there ... maybe more comfortable ... but these guys are ... I don't know. I'm just having real trouble with it ... the reasons why these things are so limited, are sometimes ... it's really based on big business models or, er, somebody's economic models.
Tanner: OK. Jeff, could you come up from code enforcement and kind of explain your whole point of view on this?
Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Wilson: Yes, thank you, Chairman Tanner and members of the Planning Commission. Um, this kind of case or situation is one of the top cases we deal with in the county as far as unincorparted areas. Not only do we deal with this in residential and urban areas, but also throughout the county. And one of the issues is, it's not the number of birds, it's the noise. We get proximity to offsite residences. So, there's also the issue of raising these animals for fighting. So, as far as code enforcement is concerned about, we focus on the number of roosters and the code states you're allowed two roosters in agricultural zone. So that's one of the ... we go out on the sites, we look at the number of roosters they have and if there's more than two roosters, they're in violation of the code. And a lot of times we see ... sometimes they claim they raise these birds for show birds or things like that, but there is also an epidemic in the county of where people are fighting roosters. And so, it's unclear with this site where these roosters are going, um, if they're used for food, if they're used for show birds, if they're used for fighting. And so, that's why there's a limitation there of only allowing two roosters ona property. And so that's kind of our background into it. And so, in the past, we've asked that you've got to get rid of the roosters. And a lot of the people have complied with that and they actually remove the roosters. This particular instance, we first, um, became aware of the situation because of complaints from the neighbors. Rhe proximity of the roosters to the outside residences was creating a nuisance. And so, it's more than just the roosters, it's the nuisance factor to the outside residences. And so, we said you may make an application, which they've done and that's why it's before you today to discuss how he raises the roosters is appropriate at this location at this time. Are there any other questions?
Tanner: Any questions?... Thank you, Jeff. OK. Any more comments among commissioners? Rudy, do you have anything. (Rudy is silent.) OK. Jack (Mobley)? Cindy? Mr. Gabriele?
Gabriele: It was referenced during the discussion that the commission has granted variances. Just for legal clarity, uh, the commission generally does not have authority to grant use variances, and that's what we would be talking about here. There is a variance on the agenda today but it is not a use variance. It is an adjustment to a structural limitation that is fully analyzed and does not create adverse ... adversely impact neighboring properties. It's a visual thing. So, that's the distinction that has a huge legal significance and it is important to maintain that understanding. There was one other issue that I don't recall that it was specifically clarified but there's been the interchange of terminology here -- roosters and raising chickens. Mr. Nicholson, is there a distinction between roosters and hens, uh, in the, uh, code?
Nicholson: Yes there is and ...
Gabriele: And to your knowledge, is there a reason for that distinction?
Nicholson: Yes, and it goes back to what Mr. Wilson stated about the complaints. The complaints about roosters is they crow, and the historical use, very prevalent, is they're used for cockfighting and the Sheriff's Department is concerned about it. They've done a lot of raids. So, when the code got changed, limiting to two, it was due to a lot of factors, the nuisance, the non-ag nature of a rooster operation. It's different with hens.
Gabriele: How many hens?
Nicholson: Hens? It depends on the acreage. Commissioner Lashbrook's comments, you got how many roosters on 10 acres or one acre, why it's two, it's for those reasons, that the noise and the factor that they're not always used for ag purposes. With hens, it's a bearing of how many per acre, how much land you have and going through that process for the animal ... for the poultry ordinance to get Environmental Health clearance for how many birds you're allowed to have. That totally relates to the land area and your ability to handle the waste matter and all that.
Tanner: Are you finished? OK. Any other comments?
Lashbrook: If (sigh) this is voted down today, you know, as the staff recommendation, what-what recourse do these folks have? Could they go and offer to do the initial study, er ...?
Tanner: Mr. Nicholson?
Nicholson: Yeah, that's an alternative, to look at the environmental impacts they have and what mitigation would come out in terms of reducing a health consideration or, definitely, a nuisance consideration -- noise, dust, and all that ... uh, any flies or other insects. So, the CEQA process could help identify what would make this otherwise compatable, and through that process identify any other regulations -- whether it's environmental health or any state health agency that would weigh in on it -- then you could come up with mitigation measures that would show that under these circumstances it would be OK.
Tanner: They could always appeal it to the board (Merced County Board of Supervisors).
Lashbrook: ...uh, uh, these kinds of things, they always squash the normal citizen and, you know, allow for those with money and resources and connections to, uh, move ahead and I'm just, uh, little trouble with this one.
Tanner: Mr. Gabriele.
Gabriele: Just one point to add to what Mr. Nicholson indicated. The initial study would address those environmental impacts. Uh, but, bear in mind, that if you have a direct, unequivocal conflict between a project use and established law -- and the zoning ordinance is established law -- uh, in order to resolve that conflict, this commission would not have the legal authority, based on an initial study that, let's say, there was some kind of an environmental document. It would ultimately require either a text amendment to allow that conflict to be resolved or, in effect, ultimately, potentially, an EIR that would require board action to in effect override what would appear to be a conflict. I mean it's not what would appear, it's an actual dichotomy. There's no ifs, ands or buts, it's 38 more than what's allowed under the code. So, an initial study could not answer that question. It could answer the questions environmentally, the nuisance aspect, uh, and the traditional issues that Mr. Nicholson indicated, but it could not resolve or address that issue.
Lashbrook: What is the timeline based on the General Plan and all ... whe, if, uh, uh, you know plan update so it's probably not going to get done right on time but if it was done in the middle of next year, wh-when do we have these codes, when are we working on these codes and ...?
Nicholson: Well, the poultry ordinance is really controlled through Environmental Health. It's really not a Planning ordinance. It's an Environmental Health ordinance and they were going to start work on that after they did the animal confinement or the dairy ordinance. And that's been several years now. (Lashbook utters a low hoot) Yeah, so I don't know. I know the Environmental Health director is retiring at the end of March so I don't know what priorities they're going (Cindy: Well that's not going to ...) to have to update. Yeah, it's probably not high on the list right now. It's not, it's really a technical health and safety ordinance controlled through environmental health more so than it is a zoning code, ah, ordinance. I guess, uh, (speaking very, very rapidly now) the Environmental Health has a lot of ordinances that they enforce shhmm, they have a lot to do with restaurants, sanitation, wells and septic tanks (Lashbrook grunts as she follows his reasoning) so all those are not really related to the General Plan policies of land use, they're -- not that the General Plan doesn't have a bearing on a number of ... but the controls, the-the-the health and safety controls in the poultry ordinance are really administered through Environmental Health.
Tanner: OK. Any other comments? I'd just like to make one comment that we still have responsibility for the neighbors. OK. We can say we really feel good about this but there's still neighbors that's being influenced by these roosters whether its noise, dust, whatever, so we still have to be concerned with that. So, is there any other comments. Rudy? OK. Cindy?
Lashbrook: Uhhlll, again, things that have been voted through on this commission like the Riverside Motorsports Park, there were a lot of neighbors worried about noise and traffic and things like that, and that got completely moved over. But, eh, I had some thing more pertinent, that ... it's just ... again, if these folks have been there for 16 years, the conditions were there when they moved in ... I could have a neighbor who decides that they don't like weeds growing ... I'm an organic farm ... they may call the fire department, say it's a fire hazard or, uh, mosquitoes, you know people can make a lot of problems based on something they don't like that they see across the fence or across the road. And the neighbor moved into this situation so I'm not feeling real sympathetic to the neighbor right now.
Tanner: Jeff, how many complaints do we have from neighbors?
Wilson: We received three complaints from neighbors and they were all different neighbors.
Tanner: So one of them moved in five years ago and you don't know how long the others ...
Wilson: I'm not sure about the other two.
Tanner: So, in other words we've got complaints from all the neighbors except one on one side.
Wilson: Except for one and they submitted three letters in support.
Tanner: So, any other comments?
Wilson: Those were all made as attachments to the report as well.
Tanner. OK. Thank you. OK. If there are no other comments, I entertain a motion.
Mobley: OK. We've got several to choose from here. I move that we deny application (numbers listed) based on (sections in CEQA Guidelines) The applicant shall be allowed two roosters on the property as permitted by the zoning code. All excessive roosters and accompanying pens shall be removed from the property within 30 days from the date of this action.
Tanner: OK. Do I have a second?
(Can't tell who seconds.--ed.)
Tanner: OK. I have a motion and a second to deny administrative application (numbers) with our inability to make the findings and subject to the conditions of the application.
All those in favor say Aye. Chair also votes Aye. All those opposed, say Nay.
Lashbrook: I'm opposed.
Tanner: Three-to-one. This has been denied.
Lashbrook: Again, I'm just hoping, again, just having two roosters no matter what the size of the lot I don't think that's well thought out and again, I'm just hoping that whoever is working on this ordinance we have a chance to, uh, to bring people with mixed views into creating it...
(Commissioner Lashbrook, who wears so many other hats around the political scene in Merced can now add a cock feather to every one of them--ed)
II. Round Two -- The Board of Supervisors
Merced County Board of Supervisors Public Hearing on Appeal of the Planning Commission's denial of Administrative Permit Application No. AA08-054 -- Merced and Ernesto Monarrez -- April 14, 2009
Present: Chairwoman Deidre Kelsey, supervisors John Pedrozo, Hub Walsh, Gerry O'Banion; Absent: Supervisor Mike Nelson
Planning Department Director Bobby Lewis: This item came before the Planning Commission and staff did recommend denial for the administrative permit for the 40 roosters. The planning commission voted in favor of that recommendation of planning staff to deny the project.
Chairman Kelsey: OK.
Lewis: Subsequently, the applicant has appealed. We're here today. We have Jeff Wilson, the co-compliance manager. I just wanted to say that this actually came to us originally from a co-compliance complaint that we responded to. The applicants did meet with our co-compliance staff and did make the application. Uh, so with that I will turn it over to Mr. Wilson who will give you a brief presentation. Also, Jeff Fugelsang is here to offer support. He did write the actual staff report. If you have any questions we'll be available to answer any questions you have.
Kelsey: Thank you. Please, if you could introduce yourselves for the record.
Wilson: I thank you Mme. Chair. I am Jeff Wilson of the Planning Department. Also sitting with me is Jeff Fugelsang of the Planning Department. The appeal before you today in on administrative application No. AA08-054. The applicant was Merced and Ernesto Monarrez. They proposed to legalize or to allow the raising of up to 40 roosters as a hobby on a one-acre portion of a 9.7-acre parcel. They are proposing that these roosters be raised for exhibition/show purposes, family consumption, with the possibility of periodic off site sales. They are proposing at this point that there be no employees on site. However, the roosters will be raised by the family members that live on site. The property is zoned A-1, general agriculture and in the General Plan it is designated as agricultural.
A little background on this application is that a formal complaint was submitted to the co-compliance division on June 19 of 2008. An investigation was initiated and resulting in finding that there was actually approximately a hundred roosters that were being kept on the property. Co-compliance division found that this is a violation of Section 1848.030 Animal Confinement Facilities, which actually spells out that only two roosters are permitted in the agricultural zone and that any more than that will be subject to animal confinement requirements.
Subsequent to staff's contact with the property owners, an administrative application was submitted ... on August 26, 2008.
To provide a context for the location of this project in connection with Stevinson, it's on the north side of Third Avenue about an eighth of a mile west of Cemetery Road in the Stevinson area. It's marked by the red rectangle on the map before you. Here's a plot plan of the proposed project site. The shaded areas is where they are indicating they will be raising the roosters. This is an aerial of the project site. Once again the shaded area is where they've identified they would like to continue to raise their roosters.
One of the issues that staff, through the processing of that petition, identified was the proximity of off site residences to the proposed project. The closest off site residence is approximately 120 feet from where the rooster pens or the rooster cages are being kept. The furthest is approximately 325 feet.
These pictures indicate the facility as it is currently being operated. The top photo and the bottom photo indicate the individual pens used to raise the roosters. In addition there's further pictures of the actual roosters. It should be noted at this time that the combs and wattles of the roosters have been removed.
(One Internet source indicates that "dubbing" comb and wattles is required for gamecock show and exhibit as well as for fighting. More telling of intent to fight might have been amputation of a natural spur, done so that an artificial steel spur can be tied on. We could not tell from the picture if amputation had occurred and do not know when in the life of a gamecock it might occur.--ed)
In analysis of consistency of the General Plan and the zoning code, staff concluded that it is inconsistent with the General Plan, Goal One, of the Land-Use chapter, of which it doesn't improve the financial viability of agricultural sector, as the application is for hobby purposes. Staff also found it inconsistent with the zoning code, once again, Section 18.48, Animal Confinement Facilities, which requires a minimum of two roosters -- or a maximum of two roosters -- and also compliance with animal confinement facilities. An animal confinement facility in the code is defined as an agricultural/commercial operations. The applicant has indicated that it is for hobby purposes primarily, which is then determinated of being inconsistent with the section of the zoning code.
Environment Health reviewed the proposal and found that it was also inconsistent with this section in connection to the proximity to off site residences, manure, removal, manure storage, vector and odor control and disposal of dead birds.
Staff received three letters in opposition to the project. Um, the opposition that the constant loud crowing was a nuisance to the off site residences. The proposal is too close to the adjacent residences and it's also been indicated that there's excessive traffic on the property, meaning that there are other individuals being observed on the site beyond the property owner and tenants. And, we received one letter in support ... actually there were three letters from the same property owner in support of the project.
The project was taken to the Hilmar MAC and they voted unanimously to recommend denial of this project.
At the planning commission hearing, held on February 25, 2009, the commission voted 3-1 to deny the project, based on it being inconsistent with the zoning code and the General Plan. And because of this denial of the project, the planning commission determined it was exempt from CEQA pursuant to Section 15270 (a), which are projects which are disapproved.
Subsequent to the planning commission hearing the applicant filed an appeal and their reasons for the appeal were that the processing of the application was too slow, the applicants believe that the application should be approved, and that they were denied due process by not being provided a translator at the planning commission hearing. Staff's response to these comments in the appeal was that the project was as a result of a code-enforcement investigation and it was found that they were in violation of the zoning code. The applicant was informed of the entitlement requirements throughout the process. Applicants attended a preliminary application meeting, where it was indicated that if it was for commercial purposes, the public was to be on the site, there was to be certain improvements that would need to be made on their property and they opted not to go with an ag commercial operation due to the expense of making improvements. The applicant was notified of the inconsistencies with the General Plan and the zoning code and was given the opportunity to withdraw the application, be refunded their fees.
The applicants' daughters have acted as translators and representatives during the entire application process and including the planning commission hearing and at no time has staff been notified or a translator being requested.
Environmental Review -- there was three options presented to the planning commission. The first one was to deny the project and thereby exempted from CEQA pursuant to Section 15290 (a), Projects Which are Disapproved. Or not to take any action on the project and require an initial study to be prepared at the applicant's expense. And Three, to exempt the project from CEQA under 15061 (b)(3) "Common Sense" and approve the project subject to conditions.
Today, staff is recommending to the board of supervisors to deny the appeal and uphold the planning commission's denial of administrative application No. AA08-054 based on the project's inconsistency with the General Plan and the zoning code and uphold the planning commission's finding that the project is exempt from CEQA based on the denial pursuant to Section 15290 (a) of the CEQA Guidelines.
Staff is also providing alternative CEQA motions. The first one is that the board of supervisors does not do any action on the project and refer it back to staff for an initial study to be prepared by an environmental consultant at the applicant's expense to determine the level of environmental analysis necessary to address the potential environmental impacts, which would be either a mitigated declaration, a mitigated negative declaration or a environmental impact report. A second alternative CEQA motion would be for the board to determine that the application is exempt from CEQA under the provisions of Section 15061 (b)(3) "Common Sense," of the CEQA Guidelines. And if it is exempt under Section 15061 (b)(3), there is an alternative project motion where the board of supervisors grants the applicant's appeal and approves administrative application AA08-054 based on the project findings and subject to the conditions of approval listed in the staff report on appeal.
That concludes the presentation. We're available for any questions to board so desires.
Kelsey: Thank you. Are there any questions from the board at this time. OK. I don't see anybody from the board dais at this time so what I'll do is I will open the public hearing and invite the public to make comment on this matter. So, please come forward and state your name and address for the record and please try to limit your testimony to five minutes.
Antonio Huerta: My name is Antonio Huerta and I live in Fresno and I'm the grandson of Ernesto and Merced Monarrez. And I am here just to let you know that my grandfather, he's a 70-year-old man and he is an honest, peaceful and generous, friendly neighbor. Ah, the three letters that we have to present to you today from the close neighbors of his give a testimony to the fact that he is a good citizen and a very good neighbor and that the animals that he's raising have never caused any harm or any problem to them. Ah, raising roosters is grandpa's hobby. It is not his business. He has never been and is not planning to have it as such. And, ah, he's a 70-year-old man like I already said. Speaking with him, he tells me, "You know, the remaining years of my life, I wouldn't want to be deprived of my long-time hobby. And so, today I just wanted to appeal to the denial that you guys gave to him and I would like to make a request that we do grant him the permit to continue to raise his animals. And also, I would like for us to consider the source and the motives of the complaining party. So that's basically what I wanted to state and, ah, you've already mentioned some of the laws that could be applied, common sense. Ah, we have a letter from his doctor also explaining how this would cause him a lot of harm and endanger him, as, as, his health, if we deny allowing him to keep his hobby raising roosters.
Kelsey: OK. Thank you. Is there anyone else that would like to come forward and make public comment at this time.
Felicia Huerta: Mme. Chair and members of the board, I am Felicia Huerta and I live in Fresno. Um, and I am here this morning concerning my grandfather also. You know he has ... we have been concerned about his health lately because all this issue that just began I guess with an angry neighbor, um, has really caused him to be stressed. Um, he's lost sleep and he is just so concerned because this is his life. This is what he does every day and, um, he's very, very into this. They both are. This is their job. They have a reason to get up every morning. So, you know, we're concerned. We want him to be active. He's 78 years old and he's had severe coronary artery disease, you know, where he's been in and out of the doctor. But, we're thinking this is just causing too much stress. He's at the end of his years, most likely. When we as a family get together, he has a reason to be proud with all of his grandchildren, you know, we're all educated, and he comes to the back and we don't know nothing about these birds and he is explaining to us and to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, you know, how it all works, and this is like a science class to our kids. Every time we get together, they get to go back there and feed them and stuff. So, this is just something that is very important to them. It's a way to keep them active, both of them, because my grandmother works out there, too, feeding the birds and the roosters...are usually thinking of something to do or to move around. So it keeps them planning and mindful and active. And I would not to see him have nothing to do, be depressed and watching TV all day long and just waiting for himself to fall sick and die. I want, I would like to plead with you, ah, to allow him to keep these roosters that he's had for so long with no complaints, with, uh, nothing going on for so long, for 13 years. And maybe you can grandfather him in since I think these laws were too...only are permitted have passed after the fact that he has had 'em for so long. And so, um, I tell you this is very impportant for our family because this gives him activity and it gives them both a lifestyle that they need at the end of their years, to be active, to be productive, to be doing something, to be working in something. And it does look like a lot of work when we go ourselves and we say, "Wow, how do you do it?" But, they say, "This is our life. This is what we keep on doing every day. We have a reason to get up in the morning. And these are our animals and we enjoy this work."
I would like to plead with you that you reconsider this whole situation and would give him the clearance to, um, have his roosters in his property.
Kelsey: Thank you. Is there anyone else who would like to come forward and make public comment on this item?
Maribelle Gutierrez: Hi, my name is Maribelle Gutierrez and I live at 2731 Walton Avenue in Sanger, California and I am also a granddaughter, a very proud graddaughter. And, I am emotional because of their health. And, first of all, it's their life, as my sister has said. It's their life. We would hate to see them lose 13 years of their life that they have dedicated to the roosters. And, as a family, we know that if this was taken away, his life would end. And, we would hate to see that happen. We beg, we plead that you can consider. And, all I can say is that they are not harming anybody, so please listen to our cry and our plead and you consider their age their health risks, too. Thank you very much.
Kelsey: Is there anyone else that would like to make comment at this time during the public hearing? Please come forward and state your name and address for the record and limit your testimony to five minutes.
Lorena Monarrez: Yes, my name is Lorena Monarrez and I am their daughter and I do have another three letters from neighbors at least are close by, which, they don't have no problems with them raising their roosters. Also we have ... I turned in a letter from his doctor saying that he ... it is very good for him to have this hobby because it keeps him motivated. I also want to stress that fact that everything was going perfectly smoothly when we applied for the application. Ah, we're all here because of a neighbor complaint. It was, it is, and it is as you can see, the county is supposed to send out letters letting them know about our project, approving the permit and all that. So, these neighbors gathered letters from other neighbors. She sent out malicious letters and they are all based on false statements. And I would like for you guys to consider that those are all full of lies. False statements, like I said. There is nothing proven. Because, they talk about loud noise. What level? Have anybody taken consideration into that? Do they have a report at what level is the noise? The traffic: there are only two to five vehicles a day in that dead-end road. And, so, if you guys look at that ... and one of the letters mentioned my dad's horses. My dad doesn't even have any horses. So, please, we don't you guys to make a decision based on something that is based on lies and false statements. And that's all I gotta say. I got these letters. I don't know if I should turn them in now or later on.
Kelsey: Put them in the basket.
Monarrez: OK. Thank you.
Kelsey: Thank you. Now, if there's anyone else, please come forward and state your name and address for the record and limit your testimony to five minutes.
Alex McCabe: Good afternoon. My name is Alex McCabe. I live at 5421 Seagul Court in Winton, California. I am not related to the applicant. I am the poultry coach for the Livingston FFA. I'm a former contract grower for Foster Farms and am a poultry enthusiast. I would urge you to accept the appeal by the applicant, simply because I believe the right to raise poultry as a hobby is something that someone who lives in a rural area in our county should be able to do. If they go down to 40 animals, 40 animals is not an excessive number. Forty animals. Let's say they all weigh two pounds. We're talking about an 80-pound animal. One of the reasons behind the code was that we have an excess of manure. But, really, 40 animals are really not going to produce any more than someone who has a cow or a horse or multiple sheep, which most people who have 9.7 acres in this county are able to raise.
I assist kids in raising poultry in the FFA. Some of them raise roosters. They raise them for exhibition. Raising poultry teaches kids responsibility and it also gets them involved in a fun hobby. That's the end of my comments. I would appreciate it if you would consider the application to appeal the decision made by the planning department. Thank you.
Kelsey: Thank you. If there isn't anyone else interested at this point in coming forward and making comment for the public record, I will close the public hearing. Is there anyone else who would like to address this item? Please come forward.
Jesse Renteria: Mme. Chairman and and the board, my name is Jesse Renteria and I live in Ceres, California. I'm a friend of the Monarrez family. I've known them for 25 years. They are a family of high morals and values and are very humble and pleasant people. During the time that I've known them, I've not seen any illegal activity. They take excellent care of their chickens and roosters. I have read some of the letters that have been written from Mrs. Silva and Mr. Bobette. They have many false statements. For instance, they state there have been an increase in traffic, which is totally false. we would be lucky to see 10 cars in an 8-hour period. I consider the false statements hearsay and malicious. I feel that when an individual makes a false statement, he should be held accountable and be reprimanded or penalized. The planning commission should be fair and impartial. Mr. Ernesto Monarrez and his family have lived on the property for close to 16 years raising his roosters as a hobby. The neighbor, Mrs. Silva, moves next door and has been living close to Mr. Monarrez for five years and starts complaining without merit. I believe that when Mr. Monarrez moved 16 years ago, Merced County didn't implement the codes correctly and now they are trying to implement the codes after the fact, which is very unfair. It disregards the common sense guidelines. I feel it is ironic that Stanislaus County, which is a larger county than Merced County, tends to be more lenient. I know of some individuals in Stanislaus County that are raising 500 to 1,000 roosters without any problems. In fact, I have a neighbor that lives about two miles away from me and I hear his roosters crowing all the time. But, I don't complain. As a result, I wish you would reconsider and grant Mr. Monarrez a permit to continue his hobby. YOu take that away from him and you take away his will to live, which I'm extremely worried about. Thank you.
Kelsey: Thank you. Is there anyone else who would like to come forward? I don't see anyone so I'll close the public hearing and we'll bring it back to the board. What's the pleasure of the board? I don't see any lights. Oh, Mr. Walsh.
Supervisor Walsh: Couple of questions for...Uh, the initial concerns were brought to us by, I think, code enforcement issues about the number of birds on the property?
Wilson: Supervisor Walsh, if I may answer that. You are correct. We got a formal complaint, which somebody filled out a form, signed it, submitted it to our office and indicated there was roosters being raised on the property. Our investigation resulted in finding that there was over, approximately a hundred roosters being on the project site.
Walsh: In the discussions, and I notice that during the presentation that you'd referenced it again, there were a series of options made available to the family in regards to how to proceed. Obviously, fewer birds, but the other idea in terms of commercial and potential relocation of the project.
Wilson: Yes. That is correct. At our preliminary application review meeting, our PAR meeting, when we met with the other county departments, if they wanted to go with an ag commerical-type facility, there are requirements for the handicapped accessibility. There would be some improvements that would be required of them to allow public on their property. Based on that information, they decided they wanted to change the application to more of a hobby-type application. In the condition of approval under the second alternative in the staff report, it actually, condition number three actually provides them an option to relocate the animal confinement facility to the rear of the property, which would make it approximately 900 feet away from the off site residences. So, it is to minimize the location next to the outside residences.
Kelsey: OK. Mr. Pedrozo.
Supervisor Pedrozo: Thank you. I'm sorry I had to leave for a little bit but I think I've caught enough of the information on the hearing, but you had said something, Mr. Wilson, on the roosters ... what were cut when you drove up there or when you went over to investigate or whatever you guys do?
Wilson: The comment that was made during the presentation was that I made a note that the wattles and the combs had been cut. Um, in our coordination with the animal control division is that this is mentioned in the planning commission hearing. The raising of roosters may at times be associated with the fighting of roosters. So in that type of instance, they do cut the combs and the wattles of the roosters. And so, we were close to the animal control division and cases that they have where people are raising roosters and sometimes fighting them.
Pedrozo: OK and this was brought to the MAC and I see that the MAC uh, uh, also was in favor of this coming to the ... or the denial?
Wilson: That is correct. The Hilmar-Stevinson MAC made a unanimous recommendation to deny the project.
Pedrozo: Thank you.
Kelsey: OK. Mr. Walsh.
Walsh: I'll make a motion if there's no more discussion that we deny the appeal and uphold the planning commission's denial of the administrative application number AA08-054.
Kelsey: I'll second it. Is there any discussion? Mr. O'Banion.
Supervisor O'Banion: I think the action that is about to be considered is the right action. Um, I don't know, I-I-I think we have some real problems as far as on the raising of those roosters, potential problems. I'm not saying that this individual is criminal or he's anything else, and I'm sure his whole heart is into raising those roosters. Hopefully, and maybe he can convert that into raising of chickens or some other animal confinement animal that is an approved use here in the county. I jes' don't know what other purpose there would be, I don't how, unless something is happening to those animals later on after they leave his property how you can afford or make a profit off of raising roosters. That's my own opinion in regard to this and I will be supporting the action considered today.
Kelsey: Thank you. Mr. Pedrozo.
Pedrozo: And I agree with Supervisor O'Banion and this isn't to say, uh, about a hobby or, but, when you're raising ... and I'm not familiar with the chicken industry but, or roosters, um, but, and-and-and and I'm not saying that ... they look like very good people and I understand that everybody has a hobby ...I still raise pigs and I have no idea why I still do it because I have ... all my kids are grown. But, I guess it's a hobby and I enjoy doing it. But, um, like Mr. O'Banion sez, on the roosters I do have concerns and, um, Mr. McCabe is a coach for livestock and I've been around that also, but there ...bu-but-but I really have a problem ... and then there's when the MAC is not supporting somethin' that tends to give me concerns. So I also, too, will be supporting the motion.
Kelsey: Thank you and just a comment before I call for the question, you know I don't have a problem with raising chickens at all for hobbies, if it's chickens, even if it's a mixed flock of roosters and hens. But, when it's all roosters and they all have their individual houses, like the picture showed, and their combs are cut and their wattles are cut ... I don't want to put a shingle out on Merced County that says, "Bring on down fighting cocks and raise them here." ... We went through a long battle to not allow that in the county. And, it can get out of hand. I know there's disease issues with roosters, and there's also gambling and other illicit activities. Again, I don't have a problem with hobby raising of a mixed flock. But, that's not what this is in front of us.
At this time I will call for the question. All those in favor, please signify by saying Aye. Any opposition. Vote carried. We're going to take a break ...
Appendix A: Gamefowl
The award received by Mr. Monarrez between the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors' hearings, reads: "This is to Certify that Ernesto Monarrez ... has been awarded the Showmanship and Participation Award for Showing Cocks and/or Hens -- American Gamefowl." This award came from the California Association for the Preservation of Gamefowl.
The Planning Department also received the following information from the gamefolk association on March 25, 2009:
The following information was received by the county Planning Department on March 25, 2009:
Association for the Preservation of Gamefowl
P.O. Box 4300 -- Sonora, CA, 95370
Here is your new APG/UGBA 2008/2009 Membership Card.
Thanks to you, and others like yourself, we can continue to do battle with those that would destroy our liberties and our beautiful, courageous gamefowl.
The AOG has been instrumental in fighting off bad laws, assisting those that have been abused by the legal system, providing a forum to show our fowl, spreading information regarding disease control and in the general dissemination of information to it's members.
Without the organization and efforts of the APG it would have been, long ago, a felony to even own gamefowl in California. It is an on going battle that needs active members and a war chest of money to continue the struggle. We are vastly out numbered and out financed so we must all "pay our dues" or we will be over run. We have the truth on our side, but in this day and age, truth is easy prey to money and political influence. We need the money and numbers (politically active, registered voters) to make ourselves known and to be considered a force to be dealt with.
Again, thanks for your support, it is truly needed and appreciated. You will be receiving a news latter from time to time as events and cirucmstances warrant.
The following is list are our Directors
Main Contact if you are in the Central Area is: Alberto Fregoso @ 909-331-1994
Main Contact if you are in the North Coast Area is: Larry Ault @ 707-468-1320
Main Contact if you are in the North Area is: Bucky Harless @ 209-588-1991
Main Contact if you are in the South Coast Area is: Paul Garcie @ 805-929-4849
Main Contact if you are in the South Area is: Larry Esquivel @ 626-991-0343
P.S. In the event Law enforcement or Animal Control comes to your place, it is very important that you tell them NOTHING except your NAME. If they want information tell them to contact your attorney. DO NOT let them on your property WITHOUT a search warrant. NO WARRANT, NO ENTRY! You owe them no information and anything you say will be used against you. Make sure every member of your family is aware of this.
I know we all want to be helpful and don't want any trouble, as you have nothing to hide, but the authorities abuse their power and trample your rights to own, breed and show gamefowl. I've included our attorney's card, should you need legal help.
Appendix B: Recent regional history of cockfighting
Officials: Owners Steal Roosters After Cock-Fighting Ring Broken
13 Roosters Stolen; Blades Found Covered With Rooster Blood
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- The owners of cock-fighting roosters tried to steal back confiscated roosters after their illegal cock-fighting ring was broken up on Thursday, according to Kern County Animal Control Chief Denise Haynes.
The Kern County Sheriff’s Department Meth Task Force said they went to a house on the 2700 block of Trust Street in east Bakersfield. During the search they found a small amount of methamphetamine, a sawed off rifle and 45 roosters used in cocking fighting.
They also confiscated blades that are tied to the claws of roosters during cock fights and that some of the blades still had blood on them, the Meth Task Force said.
The confiscated roosters were taken to Animal Control on South Mt. Vernon Avenue where they will be held until a court order is placed to euthanize them.
But Haynes said the owners of the roosters later snuck into the shelter and stole back 13 of them.
On their way back to steal a second load, the owners were caught by California Highway Patrol officers, authorities said.
It is unknown at this time what the connection is between the bird thieves and the arrests made in east Bakersfield.
This is not the first time someone has tried to steal animals back from the shelter after they were conficasted, officials said.
Animal Control said they are looking into increasing their security system.
Cockfight raided in Fresno County...Felicia Cousart Matlosz
Fresno County sheriff's deputies raided a cockfight Saturday afternoon just south of Fresno, detaining 50 to 75 people and confiscating several weapons and $12,500 in cash.
About 12 to 15 deputies and detectives converged on a property at 2745 S. Peach Ave., south of Jensen Avenue, about 2:30 p.m. The raid followed a two-week investigation into alleged cockfighting at the site. Although many of the people detained were cited for misdemeanor offenses, cockfighting is viewed as an illegal activity that triggers more serious crime.
"In years past," said deputy Chris Curtice, "we have a lot of other crimes associated with cockfights. We've had several murders, shootings, assaults, drug issues, weapons charges. A variety of things come as a result of these cockfights. That's why our department takes it so seriously."
Lt. Rick Ko of the special investigations unit agreed that severe criminal offenses can occur as a result of the blood sports that pit roosters against each other.
Sheriff's deputies arrived just as the fights were getting under way. Detainees, a few from as far away as Oakland, could be seen waiting their turn to talk to law enforcement. Curtice said no one tried to run away from the area, which was secured quickly by deputies.
Ko said 109 birds were seized at the site. By midafternoon, no dead birds had been found. The Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was called to determine how best to handle the birds.
Officials said the cockfights were allegedly held in a ramshackle building toward the back of the property. Inside, beer bottles, plastic lawn chairs and some feathers were scattered on a carpeted floor. Plywood crates, animal crates and suitcases with holes poked in them could be seen in other parts of the small structure. Outside, dozens of large, wooden coops filled one section of the site.
Investigators were working Saturday to determine whether any detainees were wanted in warrants for other offenses, and they also were trying to determine whether seized weapons were illegally carried or stolen.
It was the second major cockfighting raid in the past two days. The Associated Press reported that Sonoma County Sheriff's deputies raided a Santa Rosa-area home Friday and arrested 43 people.
Police arrest 69 in Oakland cockfighting raid-AP
OAKLAND, Calif.—Authorities have announced the arrests of 69 people after a raid of an illegal cockfighting operation in an east Oakland warehouse.
Police swept through the cockfight Saturday night with a makeshift "fight pit" and 100 spectators watching. Officers seized $4,400, five cars with roosters inside and boxes of paraphernalia, including knives, steroids, antibiotics and fight logs.
Police say several people were charged with misdemeanors, but two men were taken into custody for allowing cockfighting on the premises and for aiding and abetting birds during the raid.
Oakland Animal Services Director Adam Parascandola called the activity "heinous" as many of 118 birds there were severely injured. Most were eventually euthanized and eight hens were placed in a shelter.
12 arrested at Modesto cockfight
Deputies arrested 12 people in connection with a cockfight in south Modesto on Saturday afternoon, officials said.
Deputies responded to a call about the event in the 2600 block of Carol Lane, near West Whitmore Avenue and Crows Landing Road.
When they arrived, several people were clustered around a number of roosters fighting, said deputy Royjindar Singh, Stanislaus County sheriff's spokesman.
As deputies pulled up, several people jumped over fences; officials stopped and arrested 12 of them.
Authorities also found 21 live birds, eight dead birds and more than 40 knives or spurs related to cockfighting.
Two injured birds had to be put down, Singh said. No further information was available Sunday night about the people who were arrested or whether they remained in custody.
Deputies cite eight in cockfighting ring...Daniel Thigpen
RIPON - San Joaquin County sheriff's deputies cited eight people Saturday after busting a suspected cockfighting operation in rural south San Joaquin County, where dead rooster carcasses littered the ground as people ran from the scene, authorities said.
Those cited and released on a promise to appear in court could face charges ranging from animal fighting to gambling and spectating, said Deputy Les Garcia, a sheriff's spokesman. Some charges can be prosecuted either as misdemeanors or felonies.
Deputies received an anonymous tip about a cockfight at about 10:45 p.m. Saturday in the 19300 block of South Wagner Road, northeast of Ripon.
When the deputies came down a dirt road, they found about 20 cars parked outside a 12-by-12 foot, wooden building. People inside ran into the orchards as deputies approached.
Inside, deputies found dead roosters on the ground and in a barrel and several live roosters in cages, Garcia said. He was not sure how many birds, dead or alive, were in the structure.
Deputies also found odds sheets, loose spurs and leg bands commonly used in cockfighting, Garcia said.
Eight people were detained and cited. They were:
» Mauricio Ramos Sanchez, 48
» Dayna Cori Sanchez, 45
» Angela Julia Sanchez, 21
» Francisco Medina Campos, 35
» Jorge Montesano, 32
» Martha Patricia Lopez, 32
» Abel Lopez, 40
» Saul Mariscal Rodriguez, 44
Garcia said animal-control officers were called to the scene to check on the welfare of the caged roosters and gather the remains of the others.
Cockfighting rings aren't rare, Garcia said. "It does occur every once in a while in the county," he said.
Deputies arrest 2 at cockfight...DJ Becker
CHOWCHILLA - A tip led sheriff's deputies to bust an illegal cockfight allegedly in progress and the arrest of 22-year-old Miguel Larios of Madera at a Sunday gathering in the backyard of a home off of state Route 152.
Larios was arrested on suspicion of possessing roosters for the purpose of cockfighting, according the Madera County Sheriff's Department public information officer Erica Stuart.
Deputies seized more than $2,000 in cash along with alleged cockfighting paraphernalia from Larios, who was reportedly uncooperative and remained in custody overnight, according to law enforcement officials.
Also arrested and taken into custody was 28-year-old Gustavo Garcia of Gilroy. Nine others, allegedly participating as spectators at the illegal cockfight, were cited and released at the scene.
Madera County Sheriff's deputies said they initially found about 30 people when they responded to a tip about a cockfight in progress at a secluded home within a vineyard, in the Chowchilla area. Most of the spectators fled on foot into the surrounding vineyards and fields, according to officers.
Madera County Animal Control Officer B. Hill said six roosters were found dead of their injuries at the scene.
"The (fatal) injuries appeared to be from a cockfight," Hill said. "The (roosters) combs were trimmed. One of the birds had its chest, and under its wing ripped open. It had been put in a box and been left to die like that. There were injured birds, and there was blood on the patio, in the backyard."
Animal control officers found multiple crates and several specially-made boxes made for transporting roosters at the gathering, and impounded at least seven roosters from the property. One rooster was found alive in a sack with a hole cut out of it, and another rooster was found panting in a modified printer box in the back seat of car, in the 100-plus-degree temperatures Sunday afternoon.
Other gamecock roosters were found caged and in good condition on the property.
Madera County Animal Services Director Kirsten Gross said animal services continues to see many dogs and roosters injured by intentional fighting.
"The brutality continues in Madera, with this cockfighting," Gross said. "These birds were horribly injured and left to die. It was pretty awful. It's an illegal activity. People that (are convicted of ) cockfighting are going to be fined, and can do jail time. The $5,000 reward offered by the Humane Society may have played a part in this tip (being called in). I hope we will see more tips (about cockfighting) because of it," Gross said.
To qualify for the reward, according to the U.S. Humane Society, tips on animal fighting should be called into local law enforcement agencies and must lead to the arrest and conviction of individuals for animal fighting. The reward offer applies to dog fighting, and or cockfighting.
California state law (Penal Code 597a) prohibits the intentional maiming, mutilation or torture of any animal.
Dead game roosters lay discarded in a heap Sunday at a residence on state Route 152 in Chowchilla. The roosters were found by Madera sheriff's deputies who had received a tip that a cockfight was in progress. The roosters allegedly died of slashing and puncture wounds inflicted at an illegal cockfight, according to animal control officers.
Photo by: For The Madera Tribune
Five sets of two inch long, razor sharp steel leg knives were confiscated by sheriff's deputies at an alleged cockfighting raid Sunday. Officers say the custom-made leg knives are used to increase the amount of injury a rooster can inflict on it's opponent with it's legs, and are reportedly used for the purpose of inflicting more graphic, serious or fatal injuries faster than it's natural leg spur would cause.
Photo by: For The Madera Tribune
A bloody and injured game rooster stands with leg tape still remaining on his good leg. The leg tape and cords are reportedly used to attach steel knives to the legs. The rooster's natural spurs are removed to allow the use of the steel knives, which can inflict more serious injuries to the rooster's opponents, according to officers.
Photo by: For The Madera Tribune
Deputies break up cockfight in Madera
A tip to the Sheriff's Department on Sunday sent Sgt. Patrick Majeski and two deputies, Jeff Thomas and Nick Davis, to an almond orchard at Road 21 between Avenue 4 and Avenue 5. The deputies found 30 roosters-half of which were dead and the rest maimed from cockfighting.
When deputies pulled into the orchard at an area well off the road, they reported seeing close to a 100 people scatter to their vehicles and drive off.
Francisco Padilla of Westley and Alberto Martinez of Planada were detained and face misdemeanor charges. Animal control was called in to handle the roosters and the investigation into those responsible continues.
According to California Penal Code 597, engaging in this type of criminal activity on any level is a misdemeanor punishable by fines up to $5,000 and jail time, or both. A second offense can be deemed a felony with fines up to $25,000 and a maximum of three years in state prison or both.
Due to the severe injuries of the birds when deputies and animal control officers arrived, they had no choice but to euthanize them at the scene.
Anyone with information is urged to call the Madera County Sheriff's Department, 675-7770 or toll free at 1-800-560-4911.
An inside look at cock fighting on the Central Coast...Emily Slater
Two roosters rocket into the air upon the referee's
command to release, slashing at each other in a cloud
of feathers and dust.
A large Puerto Rican bird inflicts the first blow with
a knife tied to its foot, crippling a smaller cock
while adrenaline enlivens the crowd. The small rooster
drags itself into a corner of the plywood ring as it
attempts to fend off the larger bird, which pecks at
the smaller opponent's head and kicks it with its
Near death, the small bird suddenly swings its own
knife-wielding left foot and gouges the odds-on
favorite through the chest. The larger bird collapses
on the dirt floor of the ring, set up near Nipomo.
Onlookers erupt in cheers as the referee raises the
winning breeder's hand in the air -- and as those who
had taken a chance on a smaller rooster collect their
Welcome to a cock fight -- an illegal activity that
occurs weekly on the Central Coast and attracts
breeders from across California.
Cock fighting's fans argue that the event is a
cultural expression teaching perseverance and pride;
its opponents claim the activity is a brutal sport
spurring violence and bloodshed.
Whichever the case, rising fines are pushing the sport
further underground and steeling its competitors, who
vow to stage fights until cock fighting carries felony
Longtime breeder Carlos adopted cock fighting as his
lifelong passion after watching his first fight while
attending Arroyo Grande High School.
"There was so much energy, and people from all over,"
Carlos recalled. "I thought, 'This is what I want to
do for the rest of my life.' There's nothing like it."
Carlos would spend the next 30 years studying breeds,
diseases and knife-tying techniques.
"I put a lot of time, effort and money into it. I
wanted to know everything about it."
Of the birds he calls his "little feathered warriors,"
Carlos said, "There is a lot of pride in my birds.
They get wounded and they still fight. I cry when one
of my birds dies."
Fights drawing upwards of 100 people are staged in
fields, behind houses and in riverbeds from Cambria to
Orcutt. A recent fight in Nipomo's foothills -- one in
a season that runs from December to August, with
months off for molting -- drew about 70.
Breeders spend two years preparing their roosters to
cut and kill quickly. They train them in a method
similar to boxers, tying gloves on their developing
spurs so they can spar in practice fights. Trainers
build up the birds' muscles by forcing them to scratch
for their food and rolling them on their backs to
strengthen their wings.
"You have to get to know the bird -- hold, pet, run
and fly them. You have to get them ready for battle,"
said Carlos. "They peak when they can't stand looking
at another rooster."
While Carlos views cock fighting as a beautiful
expression of his culture, many consider the activity
"Cock fighting is inhumane," said Cassie Holland,
assistant director of the Santa Maria Valley Humane
Society. "The activity ends in death or severe
The Humane Society of the United States is lobbying
Congress to toughen federal laws by instituting
felony-level penalties. The 108th Congress will end
its session in the fall.
Roosters seized during busts are usually destroyed due
to their aggressive nature, according to Eric
Anderson, manager for San Luis Obispo County's
Department of Animal Services.
"There is no way to place them (in any home)," he
said. "They don't make acceptable companions."
Confiscated roosters are delivered to the shelter and
held until charges are filed against their owners.
To avoid confiscation of the costly birds, breeders
operate undercover. A tight network informs
participants of the next fight location. Arenas are
rotated to keep police and potential crashers from
breaking up fights or stealing profits.
Two years ago, masked bandits armed with automatic
rifles raided a ring, seizing thousands of dollars and
forcing spectators -- including Carlos' mother -- to
relinquish jewelry and lie down in the dirt until they
The bandits were never identified, although organizers
moved locations more frequently after the raid.
Rising fines have also forced a greater degree of
secrecy than in years past, when one Nipomo sheriff's
deputy even brought his roosters to the fights, Carlos
In January, cock fighting fines rose from $1,000 to
$5,000 and/or up to a year in jail for first-time
offenses. Second-time offenses catapulted from $1,000
to $25,000, with the possibility of jail time.
During a raid, officers are trained to corral
organizers and breeders first, although anyone in
attendance can be charged with a misdemeanor.
Unless an informant tips off police, though, fights in
progress are rarely busted because most are staged in
remote locations, according to Sgt. Chris Pappas,
public information officer for the Santa Barbara
County Sheriff's Department.
More common is the discovery of illegal spurs -- the
knives that are strapped to the roosters' feet. The
presence of birds alone does not constitute a crime.
In San Luis Obispo County, two signs of cock fighting
were recorded last year. In one case, officers located
birds and spurs in a vehicle during a traffic stop. In
another, a probation search uncovered a fighting ring
and paraphernalia, according to Lt. Martin Basti of
the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department.
In Santa Barbara County, authorities seized 140
fighting cocks last year. Soon after, sheriff's
deputies discovered an illegal cock fighting ring in
rural Orcutt and cited 21 people for their
While rarely busted, cock fights occur every weekend
-- despite some people's belief that their regularity
is diminishing as development begins to push back the
area's rural nature.
"I have not seen or heard of any (fights) in a long
time," Basti said. "There are less places for them to
happen with a bigger population."
In reality, organizers are being more creative in
choosing locations, some of which are just off major
thoroughfares but hidden from view.
"My sense is that this is a problem that won't go away
by virtue of enforcement actions on our part," Pappas
acknowledged. "It's part of an expression of people's
As baseball or boxing is to Americans, cock fighting
is to Mexicans and Filipinos.
"This is what people live for," Carlos said.
Fights are often friendly affairs for the people,
drawing families and schoolmates. At the recent Nipomo
fight, Carlos acted as referee; his brother weighed
the birds; his sister sold homemade burritos and
collected entry fees with Carlos' girlfriend.
Many of the spectators grew up together and greeted
each other enthusiastically, admiring the green, red
and white roosters and sharing the latest edition of
"The Gamecock" magazine, published in Arkansas. Cock
fighting is still legal in Louisiana and parts of New
Carlos hugged Andrew, a childhood friend who played on
his Little League team in Nipomo. For them, cock
fighting belongs beside bull fighting and boxing;
while violent, each activity has shaped culture.
The cock fighting crowd includes people from age 5 to
75. Most are males from various ethnic and economic
backgrounds. All share a love of the sport.
"A lot of people think of cock fighting as a sporting
event," said Deputy Mike Martin of the San Luis Obispo
County Sheriff's Department. "But a lot of money
exchanges hands and guns and drugs are involved. We
take them very seriously, due not only to the cruelty
against animals, but the danger to people."
He explained that one deputy had a knife pulled on him
at a cock fight.
"It's a cruelty issue in the estimation of many
people," Pappas added. "Birds are raised to slash
until one bleeds to death. This is the gruesome
Thousands of dollars pass hands during a fight. To
participate in a derby, breeders pay $500 to enter
four birds, and during each fight, spectators exchange
hundreds in side bets. They also pay $10 to watch.
The roosters are carefully matched by weight, with
only 3 ounces allowed to separate each. When a match
is called out, breeders painstakingly tie one 3-inch
blade, called a Filipino slasher, to the left foot of
each bird -- the strongest limb on most roosters. In
tying, they must ensure the blade won't break when it
Upon entering the ring, breeders allow their birds a
few pecks at each other to enrage them beyond their
"When I go into the ring, my whole personality
changes," Carlos said. "This bird's energy is running
through my body and I feel like I am him. I know what
he will go through."
"His leg shakes when I tie the knife on," Carlos
added, "because he knows why I am putting it on."
A referee gives the command to release the birds, and
the roosters engage in battle, slashing and pecking.
Blood drips from beaks, heads and gaping knife wounds
on backs and chests.
Sometimes handlers are injured by the blades. Carlos
almost lost his thumb when a rooster knifed him. He
shows off the scar proudly.
Most fights end in a whirlwind two to three minutes
when a rooster takes its last peck. The time limit is
10 minutes, in which case a draw is called. The
winning breeder's hand is raised in the air while the
defeated one carries away his dead or dying rooster by
the feet, tossing it into a metal barrel to be burned
or used to flavor soup.
The wounded birds are nursed back to health and may
fight again. If a rooster wins three matches, he will
likely retire and sire other birds. The handler whose
rooster claims the most victories will collect
thousands of dollars.
Although Carlos risks criminal charges each time he
organizes a fight, he will continue.
"I won't quit," he said. "I'll just be more careful."
Thus far, Carlos has evaded jail time.
His secret is sharing the location of fights with only
those who bet high and fight big. Spectators such as
Andrew, who make small side bets, rarely receive
invitations to fights now, as a large crowd can
attract unwanted attention.
Carlos said he will keep fighting his roosters until
the activity carries felony-level charges in
California, as advocated by the Humane Society. In
such a case, Carlos said, he will move to a state
where fighting is legal or better tolerated.
For now, though, Carlos will keep breeding roosters,
organizing fights and collecting illegal bets on the
"Cock fighting has been going on for centuries and is
still going on," he said. "It's my heritage."
Staff writer Emily Slater can be reached at 489-4206,
Editor's note: Central Coast residents involved in
cock fighting would speak to a reporter and allow her
to attend one of their matches only if she agreed to
keep their identities confidential.
Because many people, including some in law
enforcement, believe cock fighting is fading away on
the Central Coast, the Record felt an inside look at
the cultural phenomenon, the people who support it and
its continuing popularity warranted the
confidentiality. As a result, no last names are used,
and first names have been changed for publication.
Game fowl owners and Latino group oppose a bill to raise penalties for the 'blood sport.' ...Eric Stern (from Sacramento Bee)
It wasn't too long ago - maybe 15 years - when illegal cockfighting wasn't considered much more than a nuisance in rural California.
Frank Swiggart, a detective with the Merced County Sheriff's Department, recalls breaking up cockfights in orchards deep in the Central Valley just to chase spectators off a farmer's land. Even TV's "Seinfeld" poked fun at cockfighting, in an episode in which Kramer bought a fighting rooster.
"Everyone wants to snicker and laugh and giggle because it's a chicken," Swiggart said.
But Swiggart and other law enforcement officials say cockfighting is anything but a laughing matter. Cockfighting - outlawed in the state since 1905 - is pervasive throughout California, and the events are linked to gambling, guns and drugs, officials say.
SWAT teams, helicopters and undercover stings have busted large cockfighting derbies in recent years, where dozens of people have been arrested and thousands of birds confiscated, many outfitted with blades on their legs.
Armies of county animal-control officers also are helping in the raids, and the Humane Society has begun teaching police-training courses on tagging game fowl as evidence.
Despite the crackdown, law enforcement officials say the penalties haven't kept up. It's not illegal to own a rooster, but training or causing a bird to fight or even watching a cockfight is a misdemeanor that can draw up to a year in county jail and a $5,000 fine.
State lawmakers this year are considering raising the penalty for causing or training birds to fight to a felony for second and subsequent offenses, with a maximum one-year prison sentence and $25,000 fine.
Under the state's "three-strikes" law, a felony cockfighting conviction could trigger lifetime imprisonment.
"We want to send the message that this isn't going to be tolerated," Swiggart said.
The cockfighting measure, Senate Bill 156, passed the Senate and is moving through Assembly committees.
Cockfighting is illegal in every state but New Mexico and Louisiana. Thirty-two states also have made cockfighting a felony, including California neighbors Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Congress also is considering making cockfighting a federal felony offense.
Eric Sakach, regional director of the Humane Society, said out-of-state cockfighting organizers are flocking to California because the penalties aren't as harsh.
"The very idea of being charged with a felony is in itself a deterrent," Sakach said.
Game fowl owners are leading a spirited protest against SB 156 by Sen. Nell Soto, D-Pomona. Soto worked to strengthen cockfighting penalties in 2003 and has been determined to make the crime a felony.
The bird breeders are being helped by a Latino political group that says the idea is "mean-spirited and misplaced." Nativo Lopez, president of the state Mexican-American Political Association, wrote to Soto that cockfighting is culturally ingrained in many Latinos, and that immigrants might not understand the severity of the crime in the United States.
Soto, who is of Mexican descent, responded that the group's stance perpetuates negative stereotypes and "is an insult to the law-abiding Mexican-Americans and Latinos who are repulsed by such barbaric - and illegal - activities."
"I've been a Mexican all my life," Soto told the Assembly Public Safety Committee last week. "If people try to tell you it is part of the Mexican culture, it is not."
Michael Rodriguez, the Stanislaus County animal services director, has helped officers in several cockfighting raids in the Central Valley. He said cockfighting participants cross all races and ethnic groups.
"Cockfighting has only one culture - the almighty green culture," he said.
Maurice Ayala has been lobbying against the cockfighting bill at the state Capitol for the California Association for the Preservation of Gamefowl. He said the group's members raise the chesty roosters for fairs and poultry shows, like kids in 4-H clubs, or they're Latino or South Asian immigrants who are used to having chickens in their yards.
"We absolutely do not favor cockfighting," he said in an interview. But he then falls into a centuries-long history of the blood sport and explains that the birds fight each other because it's in their "genetic code." He said current laws against cockfighting are sufficient because prosecutors can and have charged suspected cockfighting participants with felony abuse counts.
He also disputes that cockfighting events draw other vices and turn violent. "All this is unproven scuttlebutt," he said. "The fact that they say it doesn't make it so."
Police say two men were shot to death in February at a Tulare County cockfight because of a dispute, and a man was murdered in Watsonville in March 2004 under similar circumstances. In Escalon in 2001, a referee at a cockfighting event was shot to death and two other people were wounded, police say.
In May, a major cockfighting bust in Amador County pooled 30 animal-control officers from as far away as Stanislaus and Merced counties.
Thirty people now are facing charges related to cockfighting. The ranch owner faces numerous counts, including felony conspiracy and gambling charges.
"We've got evidence going back seven years that there's been cockfighting going on out there," said Joseph J. Scoleri III, deputy district attorney in Amador.
Bill Mattos of the Modesto-based California Poultry Federation and Richard Breitmeyer, the state veterinarian, have said backyard game fowl play a major role in disseminating contagious poultry diseases because the birds are moved around frequently for fighting.
But increasing the penalties for cockfighting could make disease-control harder, one expert argues.
Francine Bradley has been vaccinating game fowl - no questions asked - since the exotic Newcastle disease outbreak in 2003 that led to the eradication of millions of Southern California birds.
Bradley, a poultry specialist at the University of California at Davis, said increasing penalties for cockfighting will drive game fowl owners underground.
"People are not going to admit to having these birds," she said. "We have had a very good relationship with the game fowl community. We have developed trust. ... We need to get the birds tested."
She keeps information about the participants in the game fowl testing program confidential. She refused to say how many there are or how many game fowl she has vaccinated.
"I don't know what people do with them," she said. "We just want them to be healthy."
In a letter to lawmakers, Bradley wrote, "You cannot legislate cockfighting out of existence."
Sakach, of the Humane Society, said that's the case with any law. But he said the increased penalty for cockfighting sends a message "to where we are in a society" and will hopefully get game fowl owners to think twice about cockfighting.
Merced County Sheriff's Department Rural Crimes Task Force announced in October 2002 that
the Humane Society of the United States had offered a $2,500 reward to any person "providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of any peson who organizes, participates, promotes or officiates at dogfights or cockfights.
"The County of Merced is an agricultural-based area," the Sheriff's Department continued. "This rural and agricultural land is a prime location for residents to raise roosters with little attention from neighbors and citizens. Cockfighting is an illegal business and often leads to the sale of illegal drugs and firearms, gambling and other forms of violence. The penalty for raising roosters used in fighting is up to one year in jail with fines for each violation that applies..."
Appendix C: Cockfighting and California Law
For Immediate Release:
May 31, 2005 Contact: David W. Miller
Senate Approves Soto Bill To Increase Penalties For Cockfighting
The State Senate today voted 33-2 to approve SB 156, a bill by Senator Nell Soto (D – Pomona) to increase penalties for illegal cockfighting.
Under existing law, cockfighting is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of $5,000. A second or subsequent violation is also a misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to one year in county jail and/or a fine up to $25,000. The same penalties apply to people who own or train birds for illegal cockfights.
SB 156 maintains the current penalties for first violations, but enhances the status of second or subsequent violations to either misdemeanors or felonies, with a penalty of imprisonment in county jail for up to a year, or in state prison for 16 months, two years or three years, and/or a fine of up to $25,000. Soto’s bill would also increase the penalties for owners or trainers of fighting birds.
"Cockfighting is an unacceptable form of animal cruelty that is widely practiced even though it is illegal in almost all jurisdictions,” Soto noted. “Cockfighting is illegal in 48 states and in 31 of those states and the District of Columbia, cockfighting is a felony crime.
"In 2003, we passed legislation that increased the penalties for engaging in this cruel and inhumane activity, but unfortunately, California's anti-cockfighting law still lags behind our neighboring states,” Soto added. “Arizona, Nevada and Oregon have established
felony-level penalties for cockfighting, making California, with its simple misdemeanor-level cockfighting penalties, a regional refuge for illegal cockfighting activity.
"There is an undeniable connection between cockfighting and other significant issues such as illegal gambling, drug trafficking, violence toward people and, as evidenced by the outbreak of Exotic Newcastle Disease in 2002, the spread of deadly and devastating diseases,” Soto said. "To discourage cockfighters from other states coming to California, and them from breaking the law, this bill will adopt felony-level penalties for specified second and subsequent violations of California's cockfighting.
However, by the time SB 156 left the state Assembly, it had been gutted and amended to be a bill about firefighters' training. The reason, according to Capitol insiders, was opposition from groups like the public defenders because it would add a felony that would count toward Three Strikes and reportedly encountered opposition from Latino legislators.
|SENATE RULES COMMITTEE | SB 156|
|Office of Senate Floor Analyses | |
|1020 N Street, Suite 524 | |
|(916) 445-6614 Fax: (916) | |
|327-4478 | |
Bill No: SB 156
Author: Soto (D), et al
SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE : 5-0, 4/19/05
AYES: Alquist, Poochigian, Margett, Migden, Perata
NO VOTE RECORDED: Cedillo, Romero
SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE : 12-1, 5/26/05
AYES: Migden, Aanestad, Alarcon, Alquist, Battin, Dutton,
Escutia, Florez, Murray, Ortiz, Poochigian, Romero
SUBJECT : Animal fighting exhibitions
SOURCE : Humane Society of the United States
DIGEST : This bill increases the penalties for various
sections relating to animal fights.
ANALYSIS : Existing law provides that peace officers do
not need a warrant to enter a building where there is an
exhibition of the fighting of birds or animals or where
preparations are being made for such an exhibition and may
arrest all persons present. [Section 597d of the Penal
Existing law provides that an officer making an arrest at
an animal fight may take possession of all birds or animals
and all paraphernalia, implements or other property related
to the animal fighting. [Section 599aa of the Penal Code]
Existing law provides that it is a felony to own, possess,
or train a dog for the purpose of fighting or to cause dogs
to fight. The penalty is 16 months, two or three years
and/or a $50,000 fine. [Section 597.5 of the Penal Code]
Existing law makes it a misdemeanor to cause, for amusement
or gain, an animal to fight a like or different animal.
The penalty for a first offense is up to one year in county
jail and/or a fine of $5,000. A second or subsequent
violation of this section or Sections 597c or 597j of the
Penal Code is a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to one
year in county jail and/or a fine up to $25,000. [Section
597b of the Penal Code]
This bill makes (1) a first offense for the above violation
a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in a county jail
or by a fine not to exceed $5,000, and (2) a second or
subsequent violation of the above is a misdemeanor or a
felony with a penalty of imprisonment in the county jail
for a period of up to one year or the state prison for 16
months, two or three years and/or a fine up to $25,000.
Existing law makes it a misdemeanor for any person to own,
possess, keep or train any bird or animal with the intent
that such bird or animal shall be engaged in an exhibition
of fighting. The penalty for a first offense is up to one
year in county jail and/or a fine of $5,000. A second or
subsequent violation of this section or Sections 597b or
597j of the Penal Code is a misdemeanor with a penalty of
up to one year in county jail and/or a fine up to $25,000.
[Penal Code Section 597c of the Penal Code]
This bill deletes the above section and creates a new
section providing that any person who is knowingly present
as a spectator at any place, building or tenement for an
exhibition of animal fighting or who is knowingly present
at that exhibition or is knowingly present where
preparations are being made for a fight is guilty of a
misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $5,000 or by
both that imprisonment and fine.
Existing law makes it a misdemeanor for any person to own,
possess, keep, or train any bird or animal with the intent
that it be used in an exhibition of fighting. The penalty
for a first offense is up to one year in county jail and/or
a fine of $5,000. A second or subsequent violation of this
section or Sections 597b or 597c of the Penal Code is a
misdemeanor with a penalty of up to one year in county jail
and/or a fine up to $25,000. [Section 597j of the Penal
This bill makes a second or subsequent violation of the
above a misdemeanor or a felony by imprisonment in the
county jail of up to one year for a misdemeanor charge or
for a felony charge with a penalty of 16 months, two or
three years in state prison and/or a fine up to $25,000.
FISCAL EFFECT : Appropriation: No Fiscal Com.: Yes
According to the Senate Appropriations Committee:
Fiscal Impact (in thousands)
Major Provisions 2005-06 2006-07
Enhanced penalties Costs likely in excess of
SUPPORT : (Verified 5/27/05)
Humane Society of the United States (source)
Alameda County Sheriff's Office
Animal Legal and Veterinary Medical Consulting Services
Animal Legal Defense Fund
California Alliance for Consumer Protection
California District Attorneys Association
California State Sheriffs' Association
City of Santa Ana Police Department
City of South Lake Tahoe
Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff
Contra Costa Humane Society
Fresno Police Department
Los Angeles County Sheriff Department
Sheriff of El Dorado County
Stanislaus County Animal Services
State Human Association of California
Tehama County Animal Services
Tehama County Sheriff's Office
Yolo County Sheriff's Department
OPPOSITION : (Verified 5/27/05)
California Public Defenders Association
John R. Cogorno, Attorney at law
Francine Bradley, Ph.D., University of California
Cooperative Extension Poultry Specialist
ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT : According to the author:
"Cockfighting is an unacceptable form of animal cruelty
that is widely practiced even though it is illegal in
almost all jurisdictions. Cockfighting is illegal in
48 states and in 31 of those states and the District of
Columbia, cockfighting is a felony crime.
"In 2003, we passed legislation that increased the
penalties for engaging in this cruel and inhumane
activity. Unfortunately, California's
anti-cockfighting law still lags behind our neighboring
states. Arizona, Nevada and Oregon have established
felony-level penalties for cockfighting, making
California, with its simple misdemeanor-level
cockfighting penalties, a regional refuge for illegal
"There is an undeniable connection between cockfighting
and other significant issues such as illegal gambling,
drug trafficking, violence toward people and, as
evidenced by the outbreak of Exotic Newcastle Disease
in 2002, the spread of deadly and devastating diseases.
"To discourage cockfighters from other states coming to
California, and to stop these cockfighters in the state
from breaking the law, this bill will adopt
felony-level penalties for specified second and
subsequent violations of California's cockfighting
ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION : The opposition argues that
cockfighting is culturally ingrained in many immigrant
communities and that they do not realize it is a serious
offense. They further argue that those who have a first
offense will now be subject to a felony without
understanding the consequences.
Francine A. Bradley, Ph.D., University of California
Cooperative Extension Poultry Specialist, also opposes this
bill stating, "With the encouragement of Dr. Richard
Brietmeyer, our State Veterinarian, Dr. David Castellan and
I have developed a Game Fowl Health Assurance (GFHA)
Program. Game Fowl breeders across California are
voluntarily testing their flocks for END and Avian
Influenza, attending educational sessions, submitting cull
birds and mortality to our diagnostic labs, and vaccinating
their birds against the Newcastle Disease Virus. We
strongly believe the best approach for having healthy birds
in California is for ALL those who raised birds to be
educated and work together."
RJG:mel 5/28/05 Senate Floor Analyses
SUPPORT/OPPOSITION: SEE ABOVE
**** END ****
In the state Assembly, this bill, duly enacted as law, became:
BILL NUMBER: SB 156 AMENDED
AMENDED IN ASSEMBLY AUGUST 7, 2006
AMENDED IN ASSEMBLY MARCH 13, 2006
AMENDED IN ASSEMBLY AUGUST 25, 2005
AMENDED IN ASSEMBLY JULY 7, 2005
AMENDED IN SENATE APRIL 27, 2005
AMENDED IN SENATE APRIL 11, 2005
AMENDED IN SENATE MARCH 16, 2005
INTRODUCED BY Senator Soto
FEBRUARY 8, 2005
An act to amend Section 13159.1 of the Health and Safety Code,
relating to public safety.
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST
SB 156, as amended, Soto Public safety: firefighting.
Existing law directs the State Fire Marshal to establish training
requirements and a curriculum that include criteria recommended by
the Emergency Response Training Advisory Committee, as specified.
This bill would require the State Fire Marshal to contract with
the California Firefighter Joint Apprenticeship Program for the
development of curriculum criteria.
This bill would also provide that these training requirements are
to be implemented only when federal funds are received for that
Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes.
State-mandated local program: no.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1. Section 13159.1 of the Health and Safety Code is
amended to read:
13159.1. (a) The State Fire Marshal shall establish additional
training standards that include the criteria for curriculum content
recommended by the Emergency Response Training Advisory Committee
established pursuant to Section 8588.10 of the Government Code,
involving the responsibilities of first responders to terrorism
incidents and to address the training needs of those identified as
(b) The State Fire Marshal shall contract with the California
Firefighter Joint Apprenticeship Program for the development of
curriculum content criteria specified in subdivision (a).
(c) Every paid and volunteer firefighter assigned to field duties
in a state or local fire department or fire protection or
firefighting agency may receive the appropriate training described in
this section. Pertinent training previously completed by any
jurisdiction's firefighters and meeting the training standards of
this section may be submitted to the State Fire Marshal to assess its
content and determine whether it meets the training requirements
prescribed by the State Fire Marshal.
SEC. 2. Section 13159.1 of the Health and Safety
Code shall be implemented only when federal funds are received for
the purposes of that subdivision.
Appendix D: Fighting cocks and poultry diseases
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Archive Number 20030209.0353
Published Date 09-2月 -2003
Subject PRO/AH/EDR> Newcastle disease, game birds, poultry - USA (CA) (06)
NEWCASTLE DISEASE, GAME BIRDS, POULTRY - USA (CALIFORNIA) (06)
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail, a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: 9 Feb 2003
From: Stephen Apatow <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Source: Modesto Bee [edited]
Fighting roosters spreading disease?
The moment the roosters are released, they flap their wings wildly
and attack. With sharpened razors tied to their claws, the
well-trained birds slash into each other, sending blood spurting.
Such fights don't end until one bird is too weak to go on. It usually
dies and is tossed into a hole, joining the day's other losers.
Merced County, California, is a popular spot for the battles, and
officials are concerned that an outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease
The state's $3.2 billion poultry industry says cockfighting has
played a role in spreading the disease, which has led to the deaths
of more than 2 million chickens in California.
"The fighting birds are moved around the state without regard to
quarantines," said Bill Mattos, president of the Modesto-based
California Poultry Federation. "They don't go to veterinarians.
They're not vaccinated."
That concern is echoed by the state Department of Food and
Agriculture and valley law enforcement, which say cockfighting is
growing in popularity despite being illegal since 1905.
"We've done several seizures at cockfights and found sick birds,"
said Frank Swiggart, a detective with the Merced County Sheriff's
Department. "When we've had them checked, it turns out they're
That worries officials because Merced County is home to Foster Farms
Poultry. The Livingston-based company produces more than 90 percent
of California's chicken meat.
Newcastle hasn't been found in the valley, but officials say it only
takes one bird to bring it in. The spread of Newcastle disease is
rapid. Newcastle doesn't only kill the birds it infects; it forces
the destruction of any birds in the vicinity. The disease spreads
rapidly and can infect an entire barn before the first bird shows any
sign of sickness.
Newcastle and cockfighting have been hot topics in the valley's
agricultural community since the first case was confirmed in October
2002, in 6 backyard flocks in Los Angeles. Some of those flocks had
hens for laying eggs, state agricultural officials said. Other flocks
had roosters, the type used for cockfighting. Officials believe
cockfighting is one reason Newcastle spread swiftly in Southern
California, despite a quarantine. It was recently found in backyard
flocks in Nevada and Arizona. Agricultural inspectors have yet to
identify how Newcastle was brought to those out-of-state flocks, but
law enforcement has an idea.
"We'll raid a fight in Merced County and find people from Nevada, New
Mexico, Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California," Swiggart said.
"They bring birds to fight and take the survivors home. Dead ones are
left here." The roosters could bring Newcastle with them, Mattos
said, or could be infected by another bird and carry the disease home.
A highly contagious, virulent disease, Newcastle is harmless to
humans but a death sentence to poultry, including chickens, turkeys,
squab, and game birds.
"It could be devastating for the poultry industry if Newcastle was
found in the valley," Mattos said. "Foster Farms alone has about 14
000 employees. The economic damage created by an illegal cockfight
could be terrible."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reimburses commercial
producers for the value of their birds, but there is no compensation
for sales lost when foreign markets ban California poultry.
While it's illegal to raise roosters for fighting, it can be
difficult to prove that's what the birds will be used for, Swiggart
said. "These guys have 2 to 400 roosters, on the pretext of raising
show birds," Swiggart said. "They're tied to stakes, in the open,
and go through a training regimen to make them fighters." It's also
illegal to watch or take part in a cockfight, as well as to possess
the artificial spurs -- called gaffs and slashers -- the birds use to
attack each other.
Trainers disregard law. That hasn't stopped the activity, however.
Swiggart noted that Delhi, Winton, and other rural areas of Merced
County are well known for fighting cocks. Cockfighting played a role
in the spread of Newcastle in 1971. An outbreak led to the deaths of
12 million chickens in California, and the government spent $56
million eradicating the disease.
In Southern California, the 8-county region is under quarantine,
prohibiting poultry from leaving the area.
Since cockfighting is illegal, poultry officials and law enforcement
don't expect their trainers to follow the law.
"Fighting cocks pose the greatest problem because they move from one
place to another and can carry the disease," Mattos said. "They're
not going to announce they're taking a bird into the next state for a
[Byline: Richard T. Estrada]