Around 1,200 birds were seized after police in western Wisconsin launched raids on a suspected cockfighting ring on Tuesday.
Sheriff's officials in Polk and St. Croix counties, along with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, seized the birds from four properties accused of running cockfighting rings, according to a news release from the ASPCA.
Several people have been detained and are expected to be arrested soon, as police found cockfighting paraphernalia at the properties, which included a fighting pitt and "gaffs" – spur-like equipment designed to inflict maximize damage during fights.
The ASPCA said that the raids uncovered roosters, hens and chicks "living in cages or makeshift enclosures, some without access to proper food or water."
It said that some appeared to have suffered recent injuries common associated with cockfight, and some had been altered by removing their comb (its head crest) and wattle (which hangs from its throat) – which is something commonly done to fighting birds.
"Cockfighters profit from and enjoy watching birds fight for their lives," Tim Rickey, vice president of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response, said. "Not only is cockfighting cruel, but it often brings other crimes to communities, such as illegal gambling and drug possession."
"We’re pleased to be in a position where we could step in and provide resources and expertise to assist local authorities in ending this violent criminal enterprise and holding the abusers accountable," he added.
It is the second major bust of a cockfighting ring in western Wisconsin this year.
In January, 19 people were arrested near Glenwood City, also in St. Croix County, after police found a suspected cockfighting enterprise in a dairy farm building.
The ASPCA said that conducting a cockfight and possessing birds for fighting are felonies punishable in Wisconsin by up to three-and-a-half years in prison, and a maximum fine of $10,000. Being a spectator is a misdemeanor offense.