An illegal cockfighting event planned in Thermal was stopped Thursday by Riverside County animal control officers and sheriff’s deputies.
Department of Animal Services spokesman John Welsh said that the operation was uncovered about 7:30 a.m. inside lemon groves in the area of Avenue 77 and Polk Street.
Welsh said deputies were the first to notice the setup and initiated an investigation with animal control personnel.
“This was likely going to be a huge cockfighting ring — but it was discovered so early in the day that nothing terrible had happened yet,” Department of Animal Services Sgt. Miguel Hernandez said. “There were still people driving into the area and nearby, but once they noticed the heavy law enforcement presence, they left the scene.”
Though no citations were issued, deputies did impound seven vehicles they suspected were used to transport birds, according to Welsh.
He said 16 cockfighting roosters were confiscated and humanely euthanized.
“It was believed that many more birds may have been on the scene prior to deputies’ arrival, but several participants fled the location with their birds,” Welsh said. “Some birds had been hidden underneath heavy blankets.”
The alleged conspirators, whose identities remain unknown, established a makeshift ring camouflaged with tarps, evidently to prevent overflying aircraft from spotting and reporting it, according to Welsh.
Cockfighting is considered a form of animal abuse in California and is prohibited under state law.