Santa Cruz County officials have revised a proposed ordinance for the county that would have restricted roosters in residential agricultural zones. The ordinance has been reworded so that it now targets only gamecocks, the breed of roosters used in cockfighting. To local bird sanctuary director Ariana Huemer, this change is a victory for backyard roosters and their owners.
Last month, Good Times ran a story on the proposed ordinance and the concerns Huemer had about its implications for her sanctuary, Hen Harbor.
Santa Cruz officials hoped to fight back against cockfighting operations within the county by restricting the number of roosters permitted in residential agricultural zones. However, because Huemer often receives multiple emails a day about taking in unwanted roosters, she was worried that the new proposed limits would have shut down her operations. Due to the significant inaccuracy of chick sexing, abandoned roosters are among the most vulnerable residents of the bird safe haven.
Huemer is part of a Facebook group for homesteaders that formed in response to the original version of the proposed ordinance. She learned about the change to target only gamecocks when one of the members of the group posted the revised ordinance.
Huemer believes that getting her story out there and the outpouring of public input “made all the difference.” Now that the ordinance has been narrowed to specifically limit cockfighting breeds, she is relieved that pet roosters will no longer be threatened by the restrictions.
Huemer hopes that county officials will be more transparent about proposed regulations in the future.
“Before the article, almost no one had heard about [the original proposed restrictions] or even knew it existed,” she says. She had only learned of it herself by chance after talking to a fellow rooster owner through social media.
Now, however, Hen Harbor’s variety of rooster breeds can continue to live out their days among the hens, turkeys, peacocks and geese that roam the sanctuary.
“This situation is a great example of how citizens can organize to affect change,” Huemer says.