ARROYO GRANDE — Close to 50 people were arrested on animal cruelty charges Sunday, after a tip led police to a large cockfighting exhibition in rural Arroyo Grande.
Sheriff’s deputies arrived shortly after 10 a.m. on the 2100 block of Heidi Place in unincorporated Arroyo Grande, where they discovered about 300 people at the event, sheriff’s officials said. The crowd scattered — jumping over fences into nearby eucalyptus groves, and some even tossing cash as they ran — when authorities arrived. Included in the bust were air and ground units from the California Highway Patrol, K-9 units from the Guadalupe Police Department, and officers from the county Sheriff’s Department, Arroyo Grande Police Department and California State Parks.
Among the arrestees was Raymond Pinon Gutierrez, 52, who resides at the event’s location. According to law enforcement officials, Gutierrez was the “ring leader” of the event. Gutierrez faces animal cruelty and other charges for his role.
Over 100 birds were “banded in place,” meaning they were quarantined at the site until the courts decide what to do with them, said Rob Bryn, sheriff’s department spokesman. Also, about 50 fighting cocks were seized and turned over to Animal Control, and several thousand dollars in cash was confiscated from betting.
“They’ll decide how badly damaged they are,” Bryn said of the fate of the seized fighting cocks. Bryn added that the birds that are badly damaged most likely will be “put down.”
Cock fighting consists of two roosters fighting each other to the death, while people place bets on the winner. Often, according to the Humane Society of the United States, the birds suffer untreated injuries or the owners will “throw the birds away like trash afterwards.”
In cockfights, the birds often wear razor blades on their legs and suffer injuries like punctured lungs, broken bones and pierced eyes — when they survive — according to the Humane Society.
There was evidence that the fighting cocks were being equipped with razor blades in the bloody battles, Bryn said.
Authorities said that Sunday’s event was a “four-bird derby,” meaning that each participant entered four birds in the competition.
This type of event in the area is not unprecedented. About a year ago, in fact, an “international ring” of cockfighting competitions was busted in nearby Nipomo, Bryn said.
“We’re always looking for them,” Bryn said.