FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. - Investigators are calling it the largest illegal cockfighting raid in U.S. history.
Anywhere between six and seven thousand birds have been seized in Southern California. Investigators also seized guns, drugs, syringes and steroids meant for the birds. The operation was raided yesterday near Santa Clarita.
Fresno County sheriff spokesman Tony Botti says Fresno County gets an average of five to ten cockfighting cases a year, and they usually happen in early Spring because the weather is cooler and better for the birds' performance.
On April 21, deputies busted a cockfighting operation in Kerman arresting four men.
"They stand around the pin, rooting on these birds as they basically duke it out until one of the birds dies," said Botti.
Botti said sometimes the violence spreads from the animals to humans.
"You have money, you have alcohol, sometimes drugs, people bring weapons in, tempers flare because maybe their bird didn't win, next thing you know, you got a scuffle. People getting into fights, possibly stabbed, shot, killed," Botti said.
Some of the signs of cockfighting activity, Botti said, include large gatherings in barns, loud music, and crowing roosters.
"The main thing is, we just want to get the message out to people that if you think something like this is going on, in the planning stages, please let us know ahead of time so we can go out and put an end to it," Botti said.
Botti said it's a felony to organize a cockfight, and a misdemeanor to attend one.