It’s about time! William Roman pleaded guilty to four felony counts of animal fighting and baiting stemming from one of the largest cockfighting cases in Florida’s history. Back in September 2010, the ASPCA assisted in forensic evidence collection and removal of more than 650 fighting birds from two properties in Lee County.
William Roman and Pedro Lopez, were arrested and charged with multiple counts of animal fighting and baiting, housing distressed animals, and animal cruelty. Lopez was also charged with drug possession. A trial date for Lopez has not been scheduled.
Roman was sentenced to six months in state prison, three years of probation and 100 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay court costs and cost of prosecution and, as part of the probation, to have no contact with animals for three years.
"These animals were exploited to breed and fight each other to the death," says Adam Leath, the ASPCA’s newly appointed Southeast Director of Field Investigations and Response. "We hope to continue our work in investigating these types of cases to rid the nation of this cruel sport."
A search warrant was executed Tuesday morning for the removal of 676 fighting roosters, hens and chicks from two separate properties in Fort Myers, Florida. The ASPCA, at the request of the Lee County Sheriff's Office and Lee County Domestic Animal Services, is on hand to assist with the removal of the birds, which were voluntarily relinquished by their owners, and to collect forensic evidence for the investigation of a criminal case.
The seizure is the result of an eight-month-long investigation that is still ongoing, according to the Lee County Sheriff's Office. Many of the roosters were allegedly being raised and prepared for fighting, when such birds commonly suffer from punctured lungs, broken bones and pierced eyes, and are fitted with knives and artificial gaffs—long, sharp, dagger-like attachments—to maximize injury.
"Cockfighting is a violent blood sport where the participants—the roosters—don't have choices," said Tim Rickey, the ASPCA Senior Director, Field Investigations and Response. "These birds are forced to be killing machines for entertainment, during which time they die or are left to die a horrible death."
In a tragic twist of fate, Fae, one of the most severely abused dogs confiscated during July's multi-state dog fighting raid, passed away this week after undergoing her third round of reconstructive surgery.
Fae, whose face was disfigured as the result of dog fighting, had been under the devoted care of her foster mother, Gale Frey, founder of the St. Louis-based Pit Bull rescue group Mutts-n-Stuff. After a lifetime of abuse, Fae was finally receiving the love and attention she rightly deserved. Fae was on her way to becoming a therapy dog, and was in training to start Canine Good Citizen® classes.
Members of the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team, which participated in Fae's rescue during the largest federal crackdown on dog fighting in U.S. history, felt a deep connection to her. "From the first instant I met Fae, I knew she was special and that I would never forget her," says ASPCA Special Agent Kristi Adams. "On the outside, her injuries represented the awfulness of dog fighting, but her unwavering love of humans, despite her many years of abuse, became an inspiration for many of us on the team."
"Fae was a symbol of strength and resilience," explains Kristen Limbert, ASPCA Manager of Field Response. "But most importantly, she was an individual. An amazing dog who seemed to want nothing more than to move beyond her past and experience the kind of happy life she should have had all along."
The ASPCA conveys our deepest condolences to Gale, the staff of Mutts-n-Stuff, and to everyone who was touched by Fae's tragic, yet deeply moving story.