CEDAR HILL, Texas – Judge Michael Petty of the Cedar Hill Municipal Court awarded about 600 roosters, hens, chicks and about 1,000 eggs to the SPCA of Texas on Wednesday.
Petty’s ruling came after a hearing Tuesday on the matter, which involved 1,601 animals seized by the SPCA of Texas under the authority of the Cedar Hill Police Department on March 14.
While in the SPCA of Texas’ custody, an average of 18 eggs continue to hatch each day. Petty awarded the SPCA of Texas restitution in the amount of $51,948; however, the SPCA of Texas does not actually expect to receive any of the money to help offset costs.
As part of his ruling, Petty ordered that the 10 dogs (including eight puppies), two rabbits and two geese be returned to the owner.
At this time, the SPCA of Texas will hold the fowls and eggs under armed guard for 10 days, during which time the owner has the right to secure a court designated appeal bond in the amount of $207,800 and appeal the decision. After the 10 days, if the owner does not appeal, the animals would be individually evaluated for potential placement on a case by case basis.
“I’ve heard the testimony of a doctor of veterinary medicine that these birds are by temperament, agility and stamina predisposed to fight,” Petty said. “I’m willing to make the leap that these are fighting birds.”
At the property, two dead birds were found in an empty dog food bag with leather bindings still wrapped around their legs, which likely held blades, authorities said, noting that about half of the birds had insufficient water and they did not have sufficient food.
They were being cruelly confined and some birds had water that was black and filled with algae, authorities said, noting that many of them did not have appropriate shelter and there was one dead bird that was housed with living birds.
The rabbits also were found to be cruelly confined and forced to live in their own feces and urine, and one of the rabbits has been diagnosed with a medical problem, authorities said, saying that the geese were dehydrated because they did not have access to appropriate food or water. Two of the puppies did not have access to appropriate food or water.
Shawn Ashley, DVM, reported that six of the puppies were, “Covered with fecal burns with poop allowed to be on their back legs, stomach and kept in unsanitary conditions. One puppy looked like its tail is dying.”
“It is the SPCA of Texas’ hope that the animals, who will be returned to the owner, will receive the medical and basic care they need,” a spokesman said.?
The majority of the roosters, hens and chicks were being housed in makeshift cages and hutches that were lined up as far as the eye could see, packing the back half of the property. Some were running loose on the property, some were running loose inside a house and many others were housed in pens in a barn. Eggs were found both inside the house on the property in incubators (about 400 of the eggs) and outside in various roosting containers (about 600 eggs). Eight of the dogs and puppies were roaming the property and two dogs were found in pens next to the barn. The rabbits were in enclosures inside the barn and geese were found in pens.
The animals were transported to a secure location, where they have been cared for under armed guard. The Cedar Hill Police Department received a tip from a concerned resident March 13 that a cockfight was in progress. After securing the scene, the Cedar Hill Police department called the SPCA of Texas for assistance with the birds.
“This is the largest-scale rooster seizure that we’ve been involved in,” said Ann Barnes, sr. vice president of operations for the SPCA of Texas. “Cockfighting is a brutal, horrific, illegal activity that, sadly, occurs all over the state of Texas. We’re thankful to the Cedar Hill Police Department for sending a strong message that this criminal activity will not be tolerated in their city.”
Cockfighting is a crime in all 50 states, including Texas, where it is a felony, punishable by two years in a state jail and or a $10,000 fine. It is a felony in 35 states and the District of Columbia and a misdemeanor in 15 states. Since 2002, a federal law has prohibited any interstate or foreign transport of fighting animals.
For more information about the SPCA of Texas’ programs and services, visit http://www.spca.org.