County’s rooster ordinance amended to verify 4H/FFA exemptions

The County of San Diego’s rooster ordinance will be amended to allow for verification of 4-H and Future Farmers of America exemptions to the rooster limit.

A 4-1 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote March 19, with Supervisor Bill Horn in opposition, approved the introduction and first reading of the ordinance. The second reading and adoption is scheduled for April 23.

“I want to make sure that no one is using 4-H or FFA as a cover for illegal activity,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “We are also building in an enforcement mechanism.”

In September 2011, the Board of Supervisors took steps to combat cockfighting by approving an ordinance which included a limit of the number of roosters on a property. The amendment included an exemption for approved 4-H or FFA projects, and the county supervisors also called for a review of the ordinance after one year to determine if changes were needed.

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 the one rooster on a premise (including contiguous parcels 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, and any zoning with more restrictive provisions on the number of roosters was retained.

The quantity limit exempted commercial poultry ranches whose primary purpose is to produce eggs or meat for sale for human consumption, approved 4-H or FFA projects, private or public schools, and county or Humane Society animal shelters.

The omission of statutory protection for Grange projects was an oversight. San Diego County currently has four Grange chapters: 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 4-H chapters and 16 FFA chapters.

The rooster limit went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012. During 2012, the county’s Department of Animal Services investigated 29 reported violations. In some of those cases the respondents cited a 4-H or 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.

On Dec. 4, the county supervisors directed the county’s Chief Administrative Officer to work with 4-H and FFA poultry project leaders and county staff to explore options for possible verification-related restrictions to the 4-H and FFA exemptions.

The changes require 4-H and FFA members utilizing an exemption to, upon demand, provide an animal control officer, humane officer, or law enforcement officer with current written proof of membership in 4-H or FFA and to provide upon demand written documentation from the chapter or county advisor on the nature of the project, the names and ages of the participants, the number and breeds of roosters, the duration of the project, the purpose for keeping the roosters, and where the roosters are kept and maintained.

An animal control officer, humane officer, or peace officer may also inspect the premises to verify initial and subsequent eligibility if that person has reasonable cause to believe that a violation exists.

Horn disliked the concept of additional legislation. “Cockfighting is already illegal in the County of San Diego. I’d like to see some more enforcement,” he said.

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