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January 4, 2010

Texas Cockfighting Pit Raided

Nearly 200 arrested; 118 birds seized

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Sheriff's deputies arrested almost 200 people. Parker County Sheriff's Office

  • Authorities seized 118 fighting birds in Poolville, Texas. Parker County Sheriff's Office

by Ariana Huemer

The HSUS' End Animal Cruelty and Fighting campaign rang in the new year in Poolville, Texas, where they joined deputies from the Parker County Sheriff's office and the USDA in raiding a large cockfighting pit.

Almost 200 arrested

Sitting at the end of a 300-foot driveway, behind a house in the most rural of areas, the cockfighting pit had attracted hundreds of spectators to the event. As deputies arrived at the property, dozens fled into the surrounding woods, leaving behind their fighting birds, their money—and in some cases their children.

At the end of the day, officials had arrested 176 people, seized 118 birds and taken into custody 15 children, ranging from 5 to 15 years old. The raid also turned up narcotics and more than $10,000 in gambling money.

Spared a bloody end

Although 118 birds were spared a bloody death in the fighting pit, for several it was too late. HSUS staff found six birds dead and six still alive but hurt. The six injured birds—the fight's "winners"—were all bleeding from open wounds and gashes.

In the midst of the chaotic crowing of more than 100 fighting roosters, we also found two hens. The cockfighters were raffling off the plucky little black hens as prizes. After photographing and tagging them, we sent them off with their rooster kin to Parker County animal control.

Event size showed need for change

"The number of people present at this event tops most raids in the last few years," said John Goodwin, The HSUS' manager of animal fighting issues. "The size of this event shows how pervasive the cockfighting problem still is, particularly in states where penalties are lax or where significant loopholes exist."

Even though cockfighting itself is a felony in Texas, being a spectator or possessing an animal with the intent to fight is still legal. (A bill to make both illegal failed in 2009.) However, those in attendance will not get away scot-free; most face gambling charges, and several others face drug and other serious charges.

Ariana Huemer is cruelty case manager for The Humane Society of the United States.

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