One of the largest illegal cockfighting rings in New York State’s history — which involved birds raised on a farm in Plattekill — was shut down last week, according to state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
Altogether, nearly 3,000 birds were abused in a cockfighting ring that spanned from Ulster County to Kings and Queens counties. Birds were raised on a 90-acre farm at 230 Plattekill-Ardonia Road, in Plattekill, were sold at a pet shop in Brooklyn, and they fought in Queens.
“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.”
Altogether, the bust — which involved cooperation between the attorney general’s Organized Crime Task Force, the Ulster County Sheriff’s office, New York State Police and the Department of Homeland Security — took 70 people into custody, led to nine felony arrests and the rescue of thousands of animals.
Farm manager Manuel Cruz, 60, and farm worker Jesus Cruz, 37, were among the Ulster County arrests. The men were expected in Plattekill Town Court on Monday.
“This investigation — one of the largest in U.S. history — illustrates the prevalence of cockfighting in America, its brutal nature and the link to other illegal activities. My office will keep working to hold these individuals accountable and put an end to illegal cockfighting,” added the Attorney General in a statement to the press.
Conditions for roosters and chickens on the farm were found to be deplorable. Roosters were given performance-enhancing drugs and had their natural spurs replaced by sharpened razors, the attorney general’s office added.
Personnel from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) helped remove and treat the captured animals. Matthew Bershadker, the ASPCA president and CEO, also weighed in on the situation.
“No animal should be forced to fight to the death for human entertainment and profit, and we are proud to play a leading role in removing and caring for these victimized birds, as well as offering expert legal assistance in this case,” Bershadker said.
Dogfighting and cockfighting are illegal in all 50 states. Staging a cockfight or possessing a fighting rooster at a cockfighting event are felonies, “and each charge carries a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a fine of $25,000,” according to the state.
Paying to watch a cockfight is also a crime, albeit a misdemeanor that could result in as much as one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Attorney General Schneiderman has made cracking down on animal fighting rings a priority with his office’s Animal Protection Initiative. Law enforcement conducted the cockfighting bust from Feb. 9-10 and it was code named “Operation Angry Birds.”
Officials suspect the farm in Plattekill had been used to raise fighting roosters since 2010. It had operated in that time under the front of being a live poultry farm.