Santa Barbara County deputies worked with local police to raid a high-stakes cockfight just east of the city of Santa Maria on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, county Sheriff's Department spokesperson Kelly Hoover told KPCC.
When they entered the small farmhouse and announced their presence, the 50 spectators scattered. Six of the roosters were already dead, with 20 more living in cages nearby. Two of the roosters were in the ring, fighting each other.
Hoover called the crime "disgusting."
"As ridiculous as it seems, this kind of thing still goes on," she said. "It’s sad and we really appreciate everyone participating in helping us finding out when these things are going on and preventing it from happening."
An anonymous tip received by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department's Rural Crimes Unit the week before alerted authorities to when and where the cockfight would take place. Investigators wanted to bust the gamblers in action in order to catch the more of them, Hoover said.
Before entering and breaking up the fight, sheriff's deputies and officers from the Santa Maria Police Department surrounded the farmhouse property in the 3500 block of Telephone Road. Ultimately, law enforcement was able to arrest 11 people, as the rest of the crowd fled on foot.
Hoover said the event was the first cockfight bust the county had seen in months. The event hosted a wide range of spectators, with bets up to $12,000.
"There was big money involved," she said. "Definitely people from out of the area were attracted to this tournament. People from L.A. County, San Luis Obispo County."
Santa Barbara County Animal Services responded to the scene and cleaned up the dead roosters, Hoover said. The two roosters that were still fighting had severe injuries and had to be euthanized. The rest are being held as evidence against the detained spectators.
Under California law, being a spectator at a cockfight is considered a misdemeanor. The investigation into the cockfight's organization is in the early stages, Hoover told KPCC. The Sheriff's Department is still looking to identify where the roosters came from and how the fight was organized. They also credit the anonymous tipper with giving them enough information to make the bust.