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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

polkonline.com More than 100 chickens seized from alleged cockfighting breeder 06/09/04

polkonline.com More than 100 chickens seized from alleged cockfighting breeder 06/09/04


AUBURNDALE - Less than three weeks after they arrested a purported fighting-dog breeder in Auburndale, Polk sheriff's deputies this week uncovered an alleged cockfighter breeder less than a mile away.

Roque Cruz, 23, whose address sheriff's deputies list as 2246 Ellie Road, Auburndale, was released Tuesday in lieu of $3,000 bond on charges of breeding fighting animals, possessing equipment for fighting and grand theft, all felonies.

Deputies seized 25 specially groomed and trained roosters, roughly 100 chicks, cock spurs and chicken-sized boxing gloves. The roosters and chicks were corralled with various levels of success at the sheriff's farm near the jail annex in Bartow. Police also found a lawn mower they believe was stolen, Dep. Shawn Stephenson said.

Sheriff's agriculture deputies arrived at Cruz's operation "about 10 minutes" after an offhand comment from a Polk County animal control officer searching for a stray nearby, Stephenson said. Cruz gave written permission for the search, according to an arrest document.

Cruz, a Mexican who claimed to work as a roofer, told deputies that he is an illegal alien who supplements his income by breeding and selling fighting cocks.

Unlike the May 21 narcotics raid that netted 95 pit bulldogs at 2380 Taylor Road, no records were discovered at Cruz's residence, Stephenson said. The arrests were not related.

Myron J. Green, 44, was released June 3 from Polk County Jail in lieu of $10,000 cash bond. He faces nearly a dozen narcotics-related charges. Sheriff's investigators say charges of breeding and training fighting animals are pending. Virtually all the dogs will be put to death if the sheriff's office succeeds in seizing the animals, which are too aggressive for adoption.

Deputies tethered the fighting birds to stakes in a greenhouse and in covered cattle pens to keep combatants from mauling each other. Other birds were caged, but a flock of chicks free-ranged through the department's corral, trailed by sweating chicken wranglers with nets.

"It was pretty interesting," Stephenson said.

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