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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

23 Fighting Roosters Are Seized By Deputies | theledger.com

23 Fighting Roosters Are Seized By Deputies | theledger.com

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Published Wednesday, June 9, 2004

23 Fighting Roosters Are Seized By Deputies
By Lauren Glenn
The Ledger
lauren.glenn@theledger.com

AUBURNDALE -- No one realized a goat would lead sheriff's deputies to the pack of fighting roosters.

But a passel of fighting gamecocks -- and the flock of chickens that bred with them -- is what they found.

The 23 gamecocks and 15 hens and 59 chicks were seized by Polk County sheriff's deputies Monday night from the home of Roque Cruz, 23, who told police he is an illegal alien who works as a roofer.

Cruz was arrested on charges of possession of fighting gamecocks, possession of fighting gamecock paraphernalia and animal cruelty. He was released from the Polk County Jail on Tuesday morning on $3,000 bail.

When he wasn't roofing, Cruz was selling and breeding the birds, made for the kind of rough-andtumble animal brawls that were outlawed in Florida last year, sheriff's officials said.

With their waddles trimmed back and spurs shaved down, the gamecocks Cruz bred would sell for between $50 and $100 each.

Sheriff's Deputy Shawn Stephenson, a detective with the agricultural unit, was responding to a call about a goat wandering the streets when an animal control agent informed him that Cruz was breeding the birds at his home at 2246 Ellie Road in Auburndale, according to reports.

When he searched Cruz's property, along with the birds, Stephenson found metal spurs, chicken boxing gloves, and chicken vitamins, the report said. According to a police report, Cruz said the gloves were used to keep the birds from injuring themselves during practice fights.

But the actual fights are gloves off, and typically prove deadly for one or both birds.

"Cockfighting is a centuries-old blood sport in which two or more specially bred birds, known as gamecocks, are placed in an enclosure to fight, for the primary purposes of gambling and entertainment," according to the Humane Society of the United States' Web site.

"A cockfight usually results in the death of one of the birds; sometimes it ends in the death of both," the Web site said.

Punctured lungs, pierced eyes and broken bones are among injuries common to birds placed in the cockfighting rings, where they are armed with 3-inch blades strapped to their beaks and feet, the Web site said. And those blades are razor sharp.

"You can just imagine what it's gonna do to them," Stephenson said.

Gambling on the birds is also a concern among law enforcement agencies. According to the Humane Society Web site, attendees at the fights can bring in thousands of dollars in unreported income.

Even to watch a cockfight is a felony.

"What we find at cockfights and dogfights is drugs, alcohol, gambling, illegal attendance -it's just literally a total criminal event," said Sheriff's Col. Grady Judd. "It's not just the fighting. In that area you have the breeders, trainers, fighters, observers and gamblers."

The Florida Legislature declared animal fighting, breeding or baiting fighting animals, or exporting fighting animals illegal a year ago this month.

Just recently, the Sheriff's Office seized 95 pit bull dogs thought to have been bred for fighting. And Stephenson said he thinks there could be more illegal animal breeding and fighting taking place.

Cruz acknowledged breeding the birds for fighting, but not to fighting the birds himself, Stephenson said.

But one of the roosters in his possession was in such bad shape it had to be euthanized, Stephenson said. And its wounds were consistent with those of a gamecock that had been in a serious brawl.

Good health or not, most of the other fighting roosters will meet the same fate, Judd said.

They cannot be sold at auction, Judd said. They are fighters, and they will fight whatever stands in their way. They are trained to kill, and there is no rehab, no rescue center to reform them.

The Sheriff's Office will seek any method possible to keep from having to put the gamecocks down, Judd said. But those options are limited, if they exist at all.

Lauren Glenn can be reached at lauren.glenn@theledger.com or 863-401-6967.

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