NBC 4 New York
Officials said they broke up a cockfighting ring and seized thousands of birds Sunday in an investigation called "Operation Angry Birds" that spanned from New York City to upstate New York. Ida Siegal reports.
Authorities busted a cockfight in Queens, found fighting roosters stowed in the basement of a Brooklyn pet store and rescued thousands of birds from an upstate chicken farm over the weekend in what officials say is the biggest cockfighting takedown in state history.
Police made nine felony arrests and seized more than 3,000 hens and fighting roosters in the bust dubbed “Operation Angry Birds,” according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The investigation targeted cockfighting operations in Queens, Brooklyn and Ulster County.
“Cockfighting is a cruel, abusive and barbaric practice that tortures animals, endangers the health and safety of the public and is known to facilitate other crimes,” Schneiderman said. “My office, along with our partners in law enforcement and animal welfare, are committed to ending this vicious blood sport.”
Police first raided a cockfight in the basement of a building on Jamaica Avenue in Queens, Schneiderman said. Seventy people were at the all-night affair, including six suspects who allegedly brought birds for fighting, bouncers who frisked attendees, a paid referee and dozens of admissions-paying spectators, authorities said. Police also found 65 roosters there.
The fights had been going on every other month at the basement since May, Schneiderman said. Bets on fights went as high as $10,000.
About the same time as the bust in Queens, authorities searched a pet shop on Central Avenue in Bushwick. Police found 50 gamecocks in poor conditions in cages in the basement, along with spurs, syringes and other items used in cockfighting. The birds appeared to have been bred, trained and altered for fighting, Schneiderman said.
Sunday morning, officers raided a 90-acre farm in Plattekill, rescuing as many as 3,000 birds. Bird-fighting enthusiasts from New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts allegedly paid to have their roosters boarded and trained at the farm, Schneiderman said, and fights were sometimes staged there.
Police say those birds were locked in small pens, injected with performance-enhancing drugs and had razor-sharp hooks attached in place of their natural spurs. Authorities say birds from the farm were often brought to the basement in Queens and the Brooklyn pet shop the night before fights in New York City.
The owner of the pet shop and the six suspects who brought birds to the fight in Queens were charged with prohibition of animal fighting, a felony that carries a maximum four-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $25,000.
The farm’s manager and a farmhand were both arrested and will be arraigned in court Monday.