Facing Cockfighting Charges in Los Angeles?
How Cockfighting is Defined Under California Law
Cockfighting is an age-old blood sport in which roosters are specifically
bred for fighting. They are outfitted with spurs or small knives (gaff)
attached to their legs and fight in an arena ("cockpit") until
one of the roosters is killed or refuses to fight. The primary purpose
of cockfighting is for gambling and entertainment. This death sport has
been around for thousands of years.
Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states. It is a felony in 39 states and
can be a felony or a misdemeanor in California. California has recently
passed amendments to existing laws that significantly increase the penalties
for engaging in, sponsoring, and selling equipment for or watching cockfighting.
Cockfighting is also a federal crime in California, prosecuted under the
United States Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. section 2156(a). This law makes
it unlawful, to “knowingly sponsor or exhibit an animal in an animal
fighting venture." An “animal fighting venture” is defined
as “any event, in or affecting interstate commerce, that involves
a fight conducted or to be conducted between at least two animals for
purposes of sport, wagering, or entertainment.” This crime is punishable
by up to five years in federal prison.
Allowing Cockfighting on Your Property—Penal Code section 597b(b)
Causing or allowing cockfighting on your property for
gain, is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to
one year and/or a maximum $5,000 fine. A second offense may be charged
as a felony punishable in state prison for up to three years and a fine
up to $25,000.
Being a Spectator at a Cockfight—Penal Code section 597c
Being a spectator at a cockfight is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment
in county jail for up to six months and/or $5,000 in fines.
Possessing Cockfighting Implements—Penal Code section 597i
Manufacturing, buying, selling, bartering, exchanging or possessing any
cockfighting implements (or equipment) is a misdemeanor punishable by
up to one year in county and/or a maximum fine of $10,000. These implements
include, but are not limited to, spurs, gaffs, slashers, training muffs,
dummies, sparring gloves, boots, and medical supplies.
Owning or Possessing a Rooster for Exhibition Fighting - Penal Code section 597j
Possessing, keeping or training any rooster (or fighting bird) to be used
in cockfighting is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county
jail for up to 180 days in county jail and/or a maximum $10,000 fine.
Although a second offense is still charged as a misdemeanor, the fine
may go up to $25,000.
If the cockfighting charge is brought under Penal Code Section 597j, the
prosecution has to prove the defendant's roosters were being kept
and used for cockfighting and not for legitimate agricultural purposes.
One of the things that prosecutors will be looking for is roosters with
their combs, waddles and spurs removed.
Defenses Available in Cockfighting Cases
No Criminal Intent — This is a key point of attack for a criminal defense lawyer in
most types of California cockfighting cases. If watching a cockfight is
charged under Penal Code Section 597c (watching a cockfight) prosecutors
must prove the defendant was aware and knowingly participated as a spectator.
If the defendant accidentally witnessed or accidentally encountered the
cockfight, the prosecutor could have a problem proving the case.
No Proof of Ownership — The lack of ownership defense can apply to land on which the cockfighting
took place. California prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt
the alleged cockfight organizer owned or controlled the land where the
cockfighting took place; or that an alleged gamecock owner or trainer
actually owned the gamecocks. This may be difficult to prove since roosters
are not licensed for this type of activity.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you or someone you know is facing cockfighting charges or being investigated for
animal cruelty in Los Angeles, it is important you contact an experienced criminal defense
lawyer immediately. Taking a proactive approach during a criminal investigation
and prior to criminal charges being filed can mean the difference between
no charges being filed or facing a serious case. At Stephen G. Rodriguez
& Partners we have the knowledge and experience to defend against
We are ready to pursue all legal options in order to have your charges
substantially reduced or dismissed. We are ready to discuss your case
and help you put together the best legal plan for your particular circumstances.
Contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney for a
no-cost initial consultation.