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NEW YORK (AP) – More than 3,000 birds were rescued in a three-county cockfighting takedown in New York this weekend that resulted in nine felony arrests, according to the state Attorney General's Office. Most of the nine men arrested on felony charges are Latinos.
In a statement released Sunday night, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said it was the largest cockfighting takedown in New York state and among the largest in U.S. history.
"Operation Angry Birds" simultaneously targeted locations in Queens, Brooklyn and Ulster County with assistance from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Ulster County Sheriff's office, Schneiderman said.
"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.
At the cockfights, spectators were charged admission fees and an additional fee for a seat within the secret basement location that housed the all-night fights, authorities said. Alcohol was sold without a permit and owners and spectators placed bets on the fights with individual wagers reaching $10,000.
In Queens, authorities raided a cockfighting bimonthly event where 70 people were taken into custody, including six who were arrested on felony prohibition of animal fighting charges. The ASPCA took control of 65 fighting birds, authorities said.
In Brooklyn, a pet shop was raided where 50 fighting birds were rescued from a basement beneath the pet shop. The pet shop's owner was arrested on a felony charge and cockfighting contraband, including artificial spurs and syringes used to inject performance enhancing drugs into the roosters, were also found.
The pet shop owner was charged with prohibition of animal fighting, prosecutors said.
Authorities also raided a 90-acre farm in Plattekill, rescuing as many at 3,000 birds. The farm's owners charged rent to cockfighting enthusiasts from various other states, including, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts to board, feed and care for roosters that were bred and trained to fight, prosecutors said. A farm manager and a farm hand at the scene were arrested.
Authorities said the roosters had razor-sharp gaffs attached in place of their spurs and were locked in small pens to be wagered on. The ASPCA has established a temporary shelter to house and care for the animals.
In New York, cockfighting and possession of a fighting bird at a cockfighting location are felonies and each charge carries a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a fine of up to $25,000, according to the attorney general's office. Paying to attend one of these events is a misdemeanor and carries a possible sentence of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.