Suspected Cockfighting Operation Busted in Virginia

Authorities in Spotsylvania County, Va., confiscated hundreds of fowl and arrested two people in connection with a suspected cockfighting operation.

Authorities discovered the alleged operation after a caller tipped animal control.

Ellis Locklear, 37, and Tanya Williams, 28, were indicted Monday on charges stemming from a March 3 raid of their home on Lawyers Road in Spotsylvania. They each face 15 counts of class one misdemeanor cruelty to animals, felony conspiracy, 15 counts of misdemeanor promoting of animal fighting, three counts of felony keeping/possession of device for animal fighting, and 15 counts of felony possession of animals used for fighting.

Officers removed 321 fowl from the home, the largest seizure of its kind in Virginia. Neighbors said the flock was so loud it would drown out conversation.

All the roosters were euthanized, and 74 hens were taken in by a local farm.

Locklear and Williams had not entered pleas and a court date hasn't been set, said Tom Shaia, who is prosecuting the case for Spotsylvania County.

Evidence of cockfighting materials was found during the March search, including razor-sharp gaffs that are attached to a fighting bird's legs, according to John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues for the Humane Society of the United States.

Investigators found evidence that the birds were shipped around the country, Goodwin said. Cockfighting is a felony in 39 states and a misdemeanor in 11.

A "cockfighting corridor" includes some of those 11 states: Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio, Goodwin said.

"It's been reduced in recent years, but there's still probably 20,000 to 30,000 people involved in it," Goodwin said of cockfighting.

Before roosters were sold for $100 to $200 each, the birds underwent a training regimen to strengthen their wings and legs -- and even sparred with soft coverings on their legs call "muffs," Goodwin said.

Aggression was achieved through breeding.

"The losers are always going to die," he said. "The winners -- it depends on how badly they get cut up."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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