Spencer, Ind.—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), at the request of the Indiana Gaming Commission, Gaming Control Division and Monroe County Humane Association, is assisting in the forensic evidence collection, removal, transport and sheltering of more than 60 fighting roosters from a property in Spencer, Ind. Other animals including dogs and farm animals were also seized from the property.
A search warrant, issued by Owen County Circuit Court, was executed Wednesday morning for the removal of the birds, as well as an arrest warrant for Jeffrey Russell Pierce, 26. Pierce was arrested on charges of possession of fighting animals, promoting an animal fighting contest and possession of animal fighting paraphernalia. The ASPCA is also assisting the Indiana Gaming Control Division in documenting animal related evidence for the criminal case and lending the services of its Field Investigations & Response and Veterinary Forensics teams. The Indiana State Police, the Indiana Board of Animal Health and the Owen County Prosecutor are also assisting in the operation.
“Cockfighting is a brutal blood sport where the unwilling participants—the roosters—are forced to fight, often to the death for the entertainment and financial gain of their owners,” said Terry Mills, director of Blood Sports for the ASPCA Field Investigations & Response team. “The ASPCA is proud to lend our expertise in animal fighting and forensic evidence collection to local authorities to help put an end to this disturbing activity and secure justice for the animal victims.”
“The Indiana Gaming Commission, Gaming Control Division investigates animal fighting because it is a violation of Indiana law and people illegally gamble on the outcome of the fights,” added Larry Rollins, director of the Gaming Control Division. “Animal fighting is not a victimless crime. Other crimes are often uncovered during these types of investigations such as illegal drugs, weapons, stolen property, domestic violence and other forms of animal abuse. With the evidence gathered today additional animal fighting investigations may follow.”
"The Monroe County Humane Association is happy to assist and support law enforcement any way we can to put cockfighters out of business and bring them to justice," said Sarah Hayes, CEO of the Monroe County Humane Association. "Indiana should have zero tolerance for this inhumane and illegal blood sport."
Responders discovered rooster remains upon arriving at the property and found the roosters to show signs of starvation and other conditions requiring medical attention. The roosters were housed in outdoor pens or tethered outside with no access to water. They were transferred to a temporary shelter where they will receive veterinary care from the ASPCA’s medical team, led by Dr. Sarah Kirk, medical director of the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team. ASPCA veterinary technicians, animal handlers and responders are also assisting on the scene and at the temporary shelter.
The ASPCA Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) team is collecting 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.
The seizure of the birds is the result of a two-month-long investigation, according to the Indiana Gaming Control Division, which set the investigation in motion. The Owen County Prosecutor stresses that the filing of criminal charges against defendant Jeffrey Pierce is the beginning of the process and the individual is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.
Many of the roosters were allegedly being raised and sold for fighting, during which such 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, sharp, dagger-like attachments—that the birds are fitted with to maximize injury. Often times, steroids or other drugs are administered to the birds to make them better fighters. Aside from being cruel to animals, cockfighting is often times closely connected to other crimes such as gambling, drug possession and acts of violence.
In Indiana, cockfighting, as well as the possession of birds for fighting, are Class D felonies, each punishable by up to three years in a state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. Additionally, being a spectator at a cockfight is a Class A misdemeanor with up to one year in a state jail and a maximum $5,000 fine. Possession of implements is a Class B misdemeanor with up to 180 days in a state jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.