Santa Barbara, CA — Animal Wellness Action applauded the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors for safeguarding the community’s quality of life and fighting cruelty to animals by approving an ordinance aimed at restricting the number of roosters allowed per property, with exemptions for legitimate agriculture operations. The vote was 4 to 1, with Supervisors Joan Hartmann, Laura Capps, Das Williams, and Chairman Steve Lavagnino favoring the measure. Santa Barbara joins more than 15 other counties in the state with similar ordinances, including Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura.
The ordinance, initiated by Supervisor Hartmann and supported by Animal Wellness Action and recommended by the County Agricultural Advisory Committee, introduces regulations based on property size in unincorporated areas. It limits the number of roosters to five for non-permitted property owners, emphasizing the need to protect the tranquility of residential areas and to curb rampant illegal cockfighting activities that pose a threat to both public safety and legitimate agricultural practices.
“The Board of Supervisors took a strong stand for maintaining the quality of life for rural Santa Barbara residents and for targeting the illegal activity of cockfighting by passing this important anti-cruelty ordinance,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. “Cockfighting is rampant throughout California, and action by local governments are needed to prevent cruelty and the wide range of crimes entangled with it.”
Eric Sakach, a court-certified national expert on cockfighting with Animal Wellness Action, and Dr. Tom Pool, a retired Army Colonel and former commander of the U.S. Army Veterinary Command and former Territorial Veterinarian for Guam, provided expert testimony in favor of the measure.
Division Chief Lars Seifert and Animal Services Director Sarah Aguilar highlighted the value of the ordinance during the public hearing. “Limiting the number of roosters on a single premise protects the health and safety of the county’s residents and the quiet enjoyment of their homes by minimizing public nuisances, illegal cockfighting, and the raising of birds used for cockfighting,” Aguilar stated during the hearing. The county’s Agriculture Advisory Committee also favored the measure.
Under the proposed ordinance, specific guidelines, and penalties for violating the provisions have been delineated. The regulations offer exceptions for agricultural students’ projects and provisions for obtaining permits to keep higher numbers of roosters under stringent guidelines. Violations of the ordinance would be treated as infractions, with fines up to $500 and potential civil proceedings to ensure compliance.
Animal Wellness Action has conducted extensive investigations of cockfighting in California, uncovering that thousands of birds are raised in California and annually shipped to Guam, the Philippines, and other Pacific Rim jurisdictions. While state and federal anti-cockfighting laws are strong, enforcement is weak, and the counties have a critical role to play in not allowing major cockfighting breeding farms to operate until false pretenses.
“If Santa Barbara didn’t take this action, we would continue to see more cockfighting operations set up in that jurisdiction, precisely because other nearby counties forbid cockfighters from raising large numbers of roosters,” added Pacelle. “The work by the Board of Supervisors makes the county safer for animals and for people now and sends a signal that cockfighters are not welcome.”
Former U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegy (R-Simi Valley), represented much of Santa Barbara County for 10 years in Congress. He led federal efforts to make dogfighting and cockfighting a federal felony.