Cockfighting, the ancient blood sport in which armed roosters fight to the death while onlookers bet on the outcome, is widespread throughout California, according to an animal advocacy organization.
California Watch previously reported that cockfighting is on the rise here, one of the few states where those caught participating in the activity are not charged with a felony.
Now the Humane Society of the United States has provided more specific information. The organization compiled data indicating that in the past two years, 34 of the state's 58 counties reported cockfighting incidents in which law enforcement was called. At least 20,000 birds were found dead or alive. Since Feb. 1, there have been eight incidents in eight different counties.
Los Angeles County had 14 incidents since 2008 involving almost 4,000 birds. Riverside County had 12 incidents in that time period involving a total of 804 birds.
Seven incidents took place in San Bernardino County, but those involved at least 3,217 birds.
In addition to the animal cruelty and illegal gambling present at tournaments, officials have noted a strong connection between cockfighting and other organized crime like drug trafficking, according to federal Drug Enforcement Administration reports.
State legislators are considering legislation that would raise the minimum fine for a cockfighting infraction and allow law enforcement to seize property obtained through the activity. Legislators have indicated that making cockfighting a felony would be a political impossibility given the state's budget and prison overcrowding problems.
The topic drew media attention earlier this month when a Central California man died from a wound inflicted by a cockfighting rooster.