3,000 birds seized in cockfighting raids

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Police and animal welfare workers seized about 3,000 roosters and hens that prosecutors say were used for fighting or breeding fighting birds.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office announced that 70 people were detained and nine were arrested and would be charged with felonies in a series of raids late Feb. 8 and early Feb. 9. Two of the raids occurred at a cockfighting ring and a pet store in New York City, and a third was at a farm in Ulster County to the north of the city.

Dr. Rachel M. Touroo, director of veterinary forensic sciences for the ASPCA, examines a rooster recovered from a raid in February at a cockfighting venue in New York. (Photos courtesy of ASPCA)

“Cockfighting is a cruel, abusive and barbaric practice that tortures animals, endangers the health and safety of the public and is known to facilitate other crimes,” Schneiderman said in the announcement. “My office, along with our partners in law enforcement and animal welfare, are committed to ending this vicious blood sport.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals removed 65 birds from the cockfighting venue, and police found another 50 fighting birds in the basement of the pet shop. Upward of 3,000 roosters and chickens were found in “deplorable conditions,” kept in makeshift cages hidden on a 90-acre farm, according to the prosecutors’ announcement.

“The owners charged rent to board, feed, and care for roosters that were bred and trained for fighting, with blood sport enthusiasts and rooster owners from NYC, Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts boarding, training and sometimes fighting their roosters there,” the announcement states. “For years, roosters bred and trained at this farm were transported to the cockfighting event raided the night before in Queens County and to the Brooklyn pet shop that was raided as well.

“These roosters were bred, trained, plied with performance-enhancing drugs, had razor-sharp gaffs attached in place of their natural spurs and were locked in a small pen to be wagered upon.”

Prosecutors and the ASPCA announced that 3,000 roosters and hens used for cockfighting or breeding for cockfighting were seized in February from this farm in Ulster County, N.Y.

ASPCA spokeswoman Kelly Krause said that, because of ongoing criminal proceedings against those arrested, the ASPCA could not answer questions about its involvement, injuries to the birds found in the three locations raided, or the care received by the seized birds.

But the organization announced that rooster carcasses were found at the fighting venue, and many birds recovered from the farm had signs of starvation and other conditions that required medical attention. Cockfighting often results in punctured lungs, broken bones, and pierced eyes.