Update on Cockfighting Case in El Dorado County

An El Dorado County man who was arrested in connection with an alleged cockfighting operation in Garden Valley last February was formally convicted last week, ordered to serve 45 days in county jail, and pay $700 in fines and fees and over $4,200 in restitution to El Dorado County. Once he serves his jail time, he will be on searchable probation for 3 years.

Saul Cuevas Ayala, a resident of Garden Valley, pled no contest to the misdemeanor crime for possession of game cocks for fighting purposes, per Penal Code 597J. As part of the plea, Ayala cannot possess fowl in the future or implements that could be used for cockfighting, and he must reimburse El Dorado County Animal Services for the costs incurred in their response and investigation activities on the case. Another man who was arrested along with Ayala in February, Rogelio Reyes-Higareda, was not charged, but was deported.

According to Henry Brzezinski, Chief of El Dorado County Animal Services, cockfighting operations in El Dorado County and throughout California are a growing problem. “We do want the message to get out into the community that these operations are going on,” said Brzezinski. “Cockfighting is not just a concern because it involves cruelty to animals. Typically, large amounts of money, drugs and weapons are involved in cockfighting matches. There are also often other crimes and violence involved. Community members who see suspicious activity that could be associated with cockfighting should report it to law enforcement or to Animal Services. We want to thank the Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office for their involvement in this case.”

Ayala and Reyes-Higareda were originally arrested on February 13 when, after a routine traffic stop by law enforcement, injured game birds and cockfighting instruments were found in their vehicle. A search warrant was issued, and following a raid by El Dorado County Animal Services, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), over 250 game fowl were found on Ayala’s Garden Valley property, along with fighting implements and other evidence of cockfighting. All of the birds were either in bad shape physically or too aggressive to be rehabilitated, and had to be humanely euthanized, according to Brzezinski.

Cockfighting birds are bred to be aggressive by injecting them with powerful chemicals, stimulants and hormones, and by subjecting them to inhumane training methods. Prior to fighting, a knife (slasher) is attached to one of the legs of each rooster and the birds are taunted into fighting one another until one usually dies from its injuries.

Cockfighting is illegal in the United States. If convicted in California, penalties can include jail time and/or fines up to $5,000 for a first offense and $25,000 for a second offense. While the states surrounding California consider cockfighting to be a felony offense, California considers it a misdemeanor. “This may be one of the reasons why we are seeing more cockfighting operations here,” said Brzezinski.

Since 2008, there have been more than 110 law enforcement incidences involving cockfighting in 35 of California’s 58 counties. More than 21,000 birds have been found dead or alive in connection with the bloodsport during that time. The HSUS offers rewards of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person involved in illegal animal fighting. HSUS can be reached at 877-TIP-HSUS (847-4787). Tipsters’ identities will be protected.

El Dorado County Animal Services staff can be reached at (530) 621-5795 in Placerville or at (530) 573-7925 in South Lake Tahoe. Additional information about Animal Services can also be found at www.edcgov.us/animalservices