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ASPCA Assists in Removal of More than 550 Birds in Virginia Cockfighting Case

ASPCA helps with forensic evidence collection, removal and sheltering of birds seized during weekend raid
May 5, 2014

New York, N.Y.—At the request of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (Virginia ABC), the ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) assisted in the forensic evidence collection, removal, transport and sheltering of more than 550 birds from three properties near Pound, Va. The birds are part of a large cockfighting investigation on which the ASPCA is working with state, local and federal law enforcement agencies.

A search warrant was executed Saturday morning to remove the birds from the three properties. The ASPCA established a temporary shelter at an undisclosed location where the birds are being housed and cared for by veterinarians and skilled animal handlers.

“Cockfighting is a violent blood sport that results in a tragic outcome for these victimized birds,” said Tim Rickey, vice president of ASPCA Field Investigations & Response. “Our goal is to remove these animals from the cycle of violence and suffering, and provide medical care and treatment for those with serious health issues. We’re grateful to the local authorities for pursuing this case and sending a message that cockfighting will not be tolerated in our country.”

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. Aside from being cruel to animals, cockfighting is closely connected to other crimes including gambling and drug possession.

More than 80 ASPCA responders were deployed from across the country to support this operation, including the ASPCA Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) team which is tasked to collect forensic evidence to be submitted for prosecution. The CSI team brings state-of-the-art forensics tools and expertise to crime scenes in order to strengthen cases.

Agencies assisting the ASPCA with removal, transport and sheltering include: Animal Rescue League of Iowa (Des Moines, Iowa); Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (Alexandria, Va.); Charleston Animal Society (North Charleston, S.C.); Florida State Animal Response Coalition (Bushnell, Fla.); Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County (Memphis, Tenn.); Humane Society of Tulsa (Tulsa, Okla.); Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter (Santa Cruz, Calif.); and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, Va.).

The seizure was the result of a comprehensive investigation on the illegal manufacture, transportation and distribution of untaxed distilled spirits, illegal cockfighting, and cruelty to animals, according to the Virginia ABC, which set the investigation in motion.

Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states. In Virginia, cockfighting, possession of a fighting bird, attending a cockfight, and possession of cockfighting paraphernalia may be punishable as felonies, with each charge carrying a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500.