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More than a slap on the wrist

NEARLY 1,500 FIGHTING ROOSTERS, along with 109 slasher knives meant to be attached to their legs, were seized in a bust of a cockfighting ring in Escondido this spring. In Fiddletown in May, a spectator at another cockfight raid dropped $4,000 in cash as he attempted to flee the scene. A list of similar

occurrences provided by the Humane Society runs on for four pages, and it’s just a sample of incidents.

Cockfighting, and gambling on the “sport,” have long been illegal in California. But light penalties provide little or no deterrent. That can be corrected to a degree by a bill from state Sen. Nell Soto (D-Pomona).

The measure, now being held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, would make a repeat violation of laws against cockfighting punishable as either a misdemeanor or a felony, at the discretion of a judge. At present, it’s always treated as a misdemeanor. A felony conviction could carry a sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of $25,000.

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Even better would be to make a first offense a felony, but the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice argued that would put cockfighting entrepreneurs at risk of a life sentence under California’s three-strikes law. A Senate staff analysis of the bill said, “The opposition argues that cockfighting is culturally ingrained in many immigrant communities and that they do not realize it is a serious offense.”

The arguments from opponents are weak. The Humane Society, sponsor of the bill, is correct in arguing that organizers of cockfighting rings are willing to try their luck with law enforcement agencies largely because the penalty is so light. Surely the word would get around quickly if sentences were stiffened.

Cockfighting is often associated with drug trafficking, illegal guns and even homicides, the Humane Society said, demonstrating “the undeniable social costs of tolerating the practice in California.” Not to mention the inhumane treatment of the fighting roosters, which are put inside a ring with knives on their legs to battle until one or both are killed. Betting on the outcome is hardly sport.


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