Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick's end-of-August guilty plea brought national attention to organized dog fighting, but local animal protection workers say cockfighting is the favored sport of animal abusers in San Luis Obispo County.
"That's probably the more common form of animal fighting in our community," said Eric Anderson, SLO County animal services manager.
Every year, the county sees one or two significant busts of cockfighting operations. In April, the SLO Sheriff's Department seized 91 birds and fighting paraphernalia outside of Morro Bay.
"Once the animals have been seized, there's not really anything that can be done with them because of the aggression," Anderson said. "They can't be placed out and they wind up, unfortunately, having to be euthanized."
Dogfights, however, are rarer, he said.
"It's not conducted out in the open," Anderson explained. "You almost have to catch people in the act to make an arrest."
People who are caught face stiff punishment.
"If we catch people that are involved in dog fighting, they go to jail. Period," said Brian Hascall, spokesman for the SLO County Sheriff's Department.
According to Hascall, people who own, possess, or train any dog with the intent of fighting it against another dog can be charged with a felony, which is punishable by up to three years in state prison and $50,000 in fines.
Despite the promise of enforcement, however, Anderson doesn't see the problem ending anytime soon.
"Anywhere you have people with animals, you will see this," he said. "Unfortunately, people have misused animals throughout history.