KHS Rescues Hens & Chicks from Cockfighting Ring

June 7, 2018

Roosters had no food or water

Kitsap Humane Society’s Animal Control officers and shelter staff rescued 70 hens and chicks from an illegal cockfighting operation in rural Port Orchard, following a law enforcement raid in which more than 300 fighting roosters were seized.

The rescued birds included 17 hens, 29 juvenile birds and 20 baby birds, most of them game birds. Four hatchlings were born during the raid, and when a KHS officer heard peeping coming from one last egg it was brought back to the shelter with its mama and her brood and hatched Monday morning at the shelter.

“This was a very difficult and dangerous operation,” said KHS executive director Eric Stevens. “Our team was committed to trying to save as many birds as possible. They did rescue and save about 70 of them – and all have been adopted. Our team deserves our deepest appreciation and respect for their hard work and professionalism.”

Of the 70 rescued birds, 62 were adopted by a South Kitsap game bird enthusiast and gentleman farmer. The remaining eight birds (four game fowl and four laying hens) were adopted by Thursday. At KHS, livestock and fowl are made available for adoption only as pets — never as a source of food.

A farmer adopted 62 game birds

Enthusiasts of American game fowl say the breed is beloved for stunning, ornamental coloring and plumage, and for being lean, athletic, savvy and intelligent. When socialized and handled from a young age, they are as friendly as other breeds of chickens. Unlike chickens raised for meat or eggs, game birds need lots of space to forage and don’t do well in small coops.  Roosters are highly aggressive with other males and will fight, so they must be kept separate from each other, but happily live with hens. Female game fowl are known to be hardy and attentive mothers.

During their short stay at KHS awaiting adoption, two of the rescued hens moved themselves into the coop occupied by the sole rooster available for adoption at KHS, Cluck Norris, who came to the shelter as a stray. Staff said he seemed to enjoy the company of his lady friends.

KHS staff said the team was determined to save as many birds as they could but found sick and dead birds and deplorable conditions on the cockfighting property. Most of the roosters were staked by a rope to barrels used as housing and many had no food or water.

Law enforcement officers arrested the two alleged ringleaders, who were charged with felony first-degree animal cruelty, animal fighting, professional gambling and leading organized crime. They remain in Kitsap County Jail in lieu of $400,000 bail.

Cockfighting is a gruesome, cruel sport, and a felony for participants as well as spectators and bystanders. The birds are fought to the death, with sharp knives, daggers and razors tied to their legs. They are routinely given steroids and other drugs, such as stimulants, to induce violent behavior. As young birds, their owners cut off the wattles under their beaks and the combs on their heads, a painful procedure done to prevent birds from injuries to that part of their head and bleeding to death.

Due to their aggressive behavior and the drugs they are given, fighting roosters can’t be rehabilitated or enter the food supply, and the state Gambling Commission ordered them to be humanely euthanized at the scene.

Other law enforcement agencies assisting with the raid included the Washington State Patrol, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, the U.S. Postal Inspector, Homeland Security and animal control from King County, the city of Seattle, and Kirkland.