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By Royal Calkins
If you live in northern Monterey County and are awakened by a chorus of crowing roosters, peace may be on the horizon.
Spurred by a lawsuit by two animal rights groups, Monterey County officials have volunteered to finally start enforcing their so-called Rooster Ordinance, which was intended to rein in the cockfighting industry that has grown nearly out of control in and around the North County communities of Prunedale, Royal Oaks and Las Lomas and beyond.
Setting the lawsuit aside for a year-long trial period, the county has agreed to begin requiring permits for those keeping five or more roosters, which should give county and animal-control officials the ability to shut down breeding operations intended to create the stock for cockfighting operations or that create an unreasonable noise level. Here is the complaint from the Humane Farming Association and the agreement between that group and the county
Numerous residents have complained about the noise coming from hundreds of rooster pens and animal-rights activists have complained about cruel cockfights carried out in barns and pens throughout the county.
The county enacted an ordinance to control the nuisance six years ago but it was written in coordination with some of the largest breeding operations and has seldom if ever been enforced. Two years ago, members of the Monterey County civil grand jury fanned out in North County and found considerable evidence that the county was ignoring its own ordinance. County officials told grand jurors that combatting the growing cockfighting industry was among the lowest priorities of county officialdom. Grand jurors estimated the number of cockfighting operations in the thousands but didn’t provide documentation.
“The Board of Supervisors had good intentions in their fight to eliminate illegal rooster keeping operations,” the grand jury reported. “Unfortunately, Monterey County agencies are operating under a process, created by the Environmental Health bureau, that effectively modifies the implementation and enforcement of the ordinance. As a result, agencies are confused about their roles, have been poorly trained, and the public does not know where to turn to have their concerns addressed.”
“The restrictions contained in the ordinance are legal and justified,” the report continued. “The mechanism for enforcement is weak and illegal rooster keeping operations in Monterey County continue with impunity.“
The grand jury concluded that the county Agricultural Commissioner’s Office shares enforcement responsibilities with the Environmental Health bureau but that Environmental Health had instructed the Ag Commissioner’s Office to ignore the ordinance.
In this new agreement with the Humane Farming Association and a group known as Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK), county officials say they will create a task force made up of representatives of county animal services, the County Counsel’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the SPCA, the Sheriff’s Office, the county Resource Management Agency and the Board of Supervisors.
According to the agreement filed in court, the task force will hold quarterly meetings and will also be able to address animal cruelty cases at large. The county and the SPCA will take steps to publicize the requirements created by the ordinance while the county animal services operation will provide training for law enforcement on how to investigate animal cruelty cases.
Sheriff’s departments throughout California have tended to avoid busting cockfights even though the gatherings often lead to heavy gambling, public drunkenness, open drug dealing and other lawbreaking.
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