FORT WAYNE, Indiana —The Humane Society of the United States is assisting the Indiana Gaming Commission with the seizure of more than 100 roosters and hens from an alleged cockfighting operation in Wells County, Indiana. The Wells County Sheriff’s Office, Indiana State Police, Ossian Police Department, Bluffton Police Department and Indianapolis Animal Care Services also assisted on-scene.

Law enforcement served search and seizure warrants on a residential property around 1 p.m. on Nov. 3. At least 100 roosters, hens and chicks were found living outside or throughout multiple structures on the property, in makeshift pens and enclosures. Dozens of chickens were housed in a dilapidated barn, in filthy conditions so dusty that responders needed masks to avoid inhaling particles. Corpses and body parts of deceased animals were found throughout the property, including in a pit where roosters and hens in various states of decomposition were floating in stagnant water.

The birds were identified by animal fighting experts as Asil chickens, a breed commonly used in cockfighting and selectively bred to be aggressive with other birds. Asil chickens are known for their tall stature, intelligence and tendency to bond with their caretakers.

Some of the birds were found to have abrasions with feather loss on their head, chest or legs. An apparently bloodstained arena was found on the property. Animal fighting experts on scene characterized it as a suspected cockfighting pit. More than 20 chairs were situated around the pit and cigarette butts littered the ground, indicating spectators would gather as roosters were staged against each other to fight.

“The lives of chickens bred for cockfighting are heartbreaking, and the only way to spare animals from these horrors is to end this cruel criminal activity,” said Samantha Morton, Indiana state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “We are honored to work with the Indiana Gaming Commission and all the agencies involved in getting these birds out of this nightmare situation.”

”We will not tolerate animal fighting in our community,” said Wells County Sheriff Scott Holliday. “I appreciate all the agencies involved in this thorough investigation and response.”

Cockfighting is a criminal industry in the U.S. that profits from violent cruelty to animals. It involves pitting two animals to fight--often to the death--for the purpose of profit, gambling and purported entertainment. Even birds who aren't outright killed during the fights suffer terribly. Common injuries include punctured lungs, broken bones and pierced eyes, yet the birds are forced to continue to fight. Animal fighting is often associated with other criminal activities such as drug trafficking, gang activity and illegal weapon sales.

The assistance of the Humane Society of the United States was requested by the Indiana Gaming Commission as part of a new two-year contract for the HSUS to aid with animal fighting cases. The HSUS assisted with animal handling, scene documentation and expertise in identifying cockfighting paraphernalia.

The HSUS transported the animals to a safe location where they will be further examined by an avian veterinarian and cared for while the court process determines custody. Due to the high likelihood of the birds’ spreading infectious diseases such as avian flu to humans and commercial flocks, chickens rescued from cockfighting situations are typically not permitted to be adopted out. This, in addition to a lack of adequate placement options for roosters, often leaves agencies little choice but humane euthanasia.

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