In September 2011, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors took steps to eliminate cockfighting by approving an ordinance which included a limit on the number of roosters which may be on a property. The amendment included an exemption for approved 4H or Future Farmers of America projects, and the county supervisors also called for a review of the ordinance after one year to determine if changes were needed.
On Dec. 4, 2012, the Board of Supervisors directed the county’s Chief Administrative Officer to work with 4H and FFA poultry project leaders and county staff to explore options for possible verification-related restrictions to the 4H and FFA exemptions. The Chief Administrative Officer will return to the supervisors within 120 days with recommendations.
“While the county earlier this year cracked down on cockfighting and related abuses, it is apparent that there is more work to be done. I want to make sure that no one is claiming ties to 4H or Future Farmers of America as a cover to continue raising roosters for fighting,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “Some folks are still raising a number of roosters for what may not be legitimate poultry education projects. It’s important that we tighten our existing rules while also ensuring that 4H organizations and related groups can continue to offer legitimate programs.”
The ordinance defines a rooster as a male chicken which is six months of age or older with full adult plumage or which is capable of crowing. The ordinance prohibits the keeping of more than one rooster on a premise (including contiguous property under common ownership) of less than half an acre, more than four roosters on premises between half an acre and one acre, more than six roosters on premises between one and five acres, or more than 20 roosters on premises over five acres. Each individual rooster beyond the limit constitutes a separate violation of the ordinance, which retained any zoning with more restrictive provisions on the number of roosters. The quantity limit exempted commercial poultry ranches whose primary purpose is to produce eggs or meat for sale for human consumption, approved 4H or FFA projects, public or private schools, and county or Humane Society animal shelters.
The omission of statutory protection for Grange projects was an oversight. Four Grange chapters currently exist in San Diego County: in Rainbow, Ramona, San Marcos, and Vista. According to information provided by the San Diego County Farm Bureau and the University of California Cooperative Extension, the county has 32 4H chapters and 16 FFA chapters.
The rooster limit went into effect Jan. 1. During the first 11 months of the limit, 25 reported violations were investigated by the Department of Animal Services. Nine of those were resolved by DAS, one was resolved by Code Enforcement, one was resolved by impoundment due to animal cruelty, eight criminal citations were issued, and six complaints were determined not to be a violation or lacked sufficient evidence to prove a violation.
In some of those investigations the respondents cited a 4H/FFA exemption. In two cases, the organization’s leadership confirmed the rooster owners as members but had no written documents with details of the approved project. One exemption claimant came into voluntary compliance with Code Enforcement, one pled guilty and came into compliance, and criminal charges were filed against another claimant.
Potential changes include requiring 4H and FFA members utilizing an exemption to provide an animal control officer, humane officer, or law enforcement officer with current written proof of membership in 4H or FFA and written documentation from 4H or FFA on the nature of the project, the names and ages of the participants, the number and breeds of roosters, the duration of the project, and the purpose for keeping the roosters. The ordinance amendment options may also include the right of an animal control officer to inspect the premises to verify initial and continuous eligibility. The current exemption does not have any rooster limit for 4H or FFA projects, and a numerical limit is also a possibility.