Not all animal advocates are cheering for Santa Barbara County’s newest rooster restrictions (“Rooster rules,” Jan. 25). In fact, a good number of us—particularly those of us who run hands-on rescues and animal sanctuaries—vehemently oppose rooster bans and restrictions.
These sweeping rooster restrictions—touted as an anti-cockfighting measure—promise to hurt more animals than they could ever help. By failing to distinguish between the game fowl used in cockfighting and the hundreds of different rooster breeds kept as pets, they condemn scores of backyard roosters to death and shift an undue burden onto the handful of rescue organizations in the state that accept roosters.
Another faulty assumption of rooster-ban proponents is thinking that most backyard roosters are intentional acquisitions and thus easily avoided by sensible citizens. But the scores of unwanted, backyard-breed roosters looking for homes are, for the most part, entirely unintentional—an artifact of the backyard-egg trend. Because of the high error rate (minus 20 percent) in sexing chicks, it’s almost inevitable that people purchasing a brood of future egg-layers will discover a mislabeled male in the mix. These “oops” roosters are the source of virtually all those vying for sanctuary spaces.
This situation happens with such predictability that most hapless rooster rehomers must soon confront the realization that a suitable home at a “farm in the country” is simply a fable. The fact is, the number of farmsteads willing to take in a rooster as a pet is basically nil, and all farmed animal sanctuaries are beyond full, easily receiving more relinquishment requests for roosters than for any other animal.
So where do these unwanted roosters wind up? Many are euthanized in overcrowded shelters that are too preoccupied with the endless stream of needy dogs and cats to suss out a safe spot for a rooster. Many others are dumped on the roadside, where they quickly fall victim to predators, starvation, or exposure to the elements. Untold others may meet an equally grim farm-animal fate of being “dispatched” behind the shed.
Meanwhile, there are no statistics showing that banning roosters is effective in reducing cockfighting activity. Even if there were, so what? Just as we would not seek bans and restrictions on all dogs because some people like to use some breeds for dogfighting, neither should we punish all roosters because some people may be abusing some breeds for cockfighting.
With the already pressing need for safe, no-kill rooster homes, the last thing these beleaguered birds need is yet more restrictions. The fight to end cockfighting should not leave the rest of the state’s roosters fighting for their lives.
director, Hen Harbor