Ken Carlson

County Pulse: Does Stanislaus County need an ordinance to combat cockfighting?

As a strategy to combat illegal cockfighting, Connie Goesch suggests that Stanislaus County government put a limit on the number of roosters kept on properties.

Goesch lives in the area west of Modesto where sheriff’s deputies broke up a rooster-fighting operation Sunday morning. About 20 men were detained at the residence in the 1500 block of Grimes Avenue, though others fled. Deputies arrested the homeowner, 37-year-old Efrain Marcucci, who faces animal cruelty charges.

About 200 roosters – most of them dead or badly injured – were removed by county animal control officers. (Authorities revised the number down from 350.) Also found in the backyard was a fighting enclosure and the metal spurs used in the brutal sport.

Goesch, whose home is an area with 1-acre residential parcels, said another resident on Grimes is raising about 150 roosters not far from her home. She said she has watched men toss the roosters toward each other to train them as fighters.

She and neighbors start hearing the rooster calls near 5 a.m., she said, and the noise continues throughout the day. The birds are raised on the 3-acre parcel in wooden pens covered by unsightly blue tarp.

Goesch said she suspects fighting roosters are raised on four or five properties within a mile of her home, bringing criminal activity to the area and hurting property values.

During the raid Sunday, which was farther down the road on Grimes, “men were running through our properties and jumping our fences,” Goesch said. “It is a mess. Some of the people out here are afraid to say anything. I am getting to the point where I am not.”

Goesch said she has complained to county code enforcement but was told that raising roosters does not necessarily violate neighborhood zoning regulations.

Jami Aggers, county environmental services director, said residential owners with more than an acre can engage in “small livestock farming.” Because the definition includes roosters, code enforcement took no action on a complaint about roosters on a 3-acre parcel in the Grimes Avenue area last April.

Small livestock farming is not permitted on residential parcels of less than an acre, Aggers said. Other than that, there are no laws against raising roosters in the county’s agricultural zones unless cockfighting is witnessed.

Concerns about rooster-fighting have spawned restrictions in some jurisdictions in California. Since 2012, an ordinance has put a one-rooster limit on half-acre parcels in San Diego County and allowed up to 20 roosters on properties larger than 5 acres.

Goesch said she would like to see a similar ordinance here and has shared her thoughts with a county supervisor. Commercial poultry ranches and 4-H clubs would be exempt.

Some people who commented on Sunday’s online coverage in The Modesto Bee wondered what happened to the roosters confiscated during the raid.

Annette Patton, county animal services director, said close to 100 roosters were dead and others were gruesomely injured. The injured birds were euthanized and five hens were given to the Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary in French Camp.

Patton said the county shelter is holding 25 roosters taken from an alleged cockfighting ring a year ago. The roosters are evidence in the animal cruelty case against the defendants.

Patton said she had no opinion on whether additional county regulations would discourage rooster-fighting.

“It is awful. They are trained to fight to the death,” she said. “We always instruct the public that if they see roosters used in fighting, they should call the Sheriff’s Department.”

Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321