Investigators in two northwest Wisconsin counties served warrants at four locations, and seized more than 1,200 birds on Tuesday morning, as part of an investigation into cockfighting.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Department and St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office called on the The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to assist with the birds. Multiple individuals were detained with arrests expected to follow, according to a statement from the ASPCA. Cockfighting paraphernalia was discovered at the properties, including a fighting pit and gaffs used to maximize injury during fights.
“Cockfighters profit from and enjoy watching birds fight for their lives,” said Tim Rickey, vice president of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response. “Not only is cockfighting cruel, but it often brings other crimes to communities, such as illegal gambling and drug possession.”
Sheriff’s investigators discovered roosters, hens and chicks living in cages or makeshift enclosures, some without access to proper food or water. Some of the birds appeared to be suffering from recent trauma consistent with fighting, while others had suffered alterations common in fighting birds, such as the removal of their combs and wattles. The ASPCA is assisting with medical assessment of the birds, evidence collection, as well as providing investigative and legal support.
During cock fights, birds commonly suffer from injuries including punctured lungs, broken bones and pierced eyes. These injuries are often the result of knives and artificial gaffs-long, dagger-like attachments-that are attached to the birds to maximize injury. Often, steroids or other drugs are administered to the birds to make them more aggressive.
In Wisconsin, conducting a cockfight, as well as the possession of birds for fighting, are Class I felonies, each punishable by up to three years, six months in a state prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. Being a spectator at a cockfight, though, only carries misdemeanor penalties.