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ASPCA assists St. Croix, Polk County law enforcement with removal of nearly 1,200 birds from cockfighting ring

AMERY, WI — At the request of the Polk County Sheriff’s Department and St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office, the ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is assisting with the seizure of nearly 1,200 birds from four properties associated with cockfighting in Polk and St. Croix counties in Wisconsin.

Search warrants were executed Tuesday morning (June 2) for the seizure of the birds, after which multiple individuals were detained with arrests expected to follow. Cockfighting paraphernalia was discovered at the properties, including a fighting pit and gaffs used to maximize injury during fights.

Upon arriving at the properties, investigators discovered roosters, hens and chicks living in cages or makeshift enclosures, some without access to proper food or water. Some of the birds appeared to be suffering from recent trauma consistent with fighting, while others had suffered alterations common in fighting birds, such as the removal of their combs and wattles. The ASPCA is currently assisting with medical assessment of the birds, evidence collection, as well as providing investigative and legal support.

“This is a very large undertaking,” said St. Croix County Sheriff John Shilts. “I want to thank the ASPCA for the expertise and resources that they have committed. Without them, law enforcement would struggle to manage these scenes.”

“We are extremely grateful to the ASPCA,” added Polk County Sheriff Pete Johnson. “They have made it possible for us to investigate animal fighting in Polk County and hold the offenders accountable.”

“Cockfighters profit from and enjoy watching birds fight for their lives,” said Tim Rickey, vice president of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response. “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.”

During cock fights, birds commonly suffer from injuries including punctured lungs, broken bones and pierced eyes. These injuries are often the result of knives and artificial gaffs—long, dagger-like attachments—that are attached to the birds to maximize injury. Often, steroids or other drugs are administered to the birds to make them more aggressive.

Other agencies assisting with the operation include Animal Rescue League of Iowa (Des Moines, Iowa), Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control (Fort Wayne, Ind.), and Heartland Farm Sanctuary (Verona, Wis.).

In Wisconsin, conducting a cockfight, as well as the possession of birds for fighting, are Class I felonies, each punishable by up to three years, six months in a state prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. Being a spectator at a cockfight, though, only carries misdemeanor penalties. For more information on cockfighting, visit