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Backyard find sparks cockfighting investigation

9:07 AM, Apr 16, 2010   |    comments
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Approximately 50 fighting birds were found Thursday in a backyard in the 6100 block of West Ohio Avenue, near Alameda Avenue and Harlan Street, said Lakewood Police Agent Steve Hipwell.

"It was extremely loud," Hipwell said. "Obviously we had disturbed them and that didn't help the noise level any."

The roosters, according to Hipwell, were in individual cages and the birds bore the trademark grooming and scars of cockfighting.

Police did not make any arrests Thursday and said it was unclear how many people might face charges at the end of the investigation. Animal fighting and possession of animals for fighting are felonies in Colorado.

It was a noise complaint that brought police to the address.

The man living at the home, who identified himself as Jose, declined to discuss the raid.

The neighborhood is a mix of 50s era homes and small farm properties, some with horses.

Police were quick to point out there is only one common usage for dozens of roosters: cockfighting.

"Fifty roosters that we believe are used for fighting are not part of a farming operation," Hipwell said.

A Colorado State University veterinarian arrived to test the birds for diseases like avian influenza.

"Fighting chickens are interesting because they move quite a bit," Dr. Kristy Pabilonia said. "It's not uncommon for them to move from the U.S. down to Mexico or other places and then come back and sometimes when they do that they can bring foreign animal disease into the United States."

Pabilonia responds to six to eight fighting bird finds a year across Colorado.

She said she has seen flocks with more than 200 birds, but most are similar in size to the Lakewood operation.

Pabilonia says champion-fighting birds are sometimes injected with steroids to make them larger and stronger. The best birds, she said, are worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.

"They're gorgeous birds. They're really pretty to look at; lots of coloring and they're big," Pabilonia said. "But they do nasty business."

Fighting birds are so aggressive they cannot be adopted and have to be destroyed, Pabilonia said.

Lakewood Animal Control officers carried away several large trash bags, apparently containing the birds after they were euthanized.

Hipwell says it appeared the birds were simply being stored at the home and were fighting elsewhere. Police will be actively seeking those locations as the investigation proceeds, Hipwell said.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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