Police Pull Over Van And Find Worst Thing Hidden Inside
They were fighting roosters — and they'd already been through so much.
Late Tuesday night, a police officer pulled over a van for a traffic violation. But what started as a routine traffic stop turned into something else altogether — when the officer opened the back of the van, he found 63 roosters and hens packed into boxes.
Finding birds in the back of a van may not seem that extraordinary to some, but the officer was trained to know otherwise. Upon closer inspection, the officer found razors, gaffs (long, dagger-like objects that can be attached to roosters) and other cockfighting paraphernalia. The officer also noticed many of the roosters were “dubbed,” meaning that their combs (the flap of red skin on top of their heads) and wattles (the red skin beneath their beaks) had been removed, which was another sign the birds were used in fighting.
Cockfighting is a cruel, illegal "sport" where people take two male roosters and force them to fight one another — usually until one rooster kills the other. As the birds battle to the death, spectators place bets on which one will win.
While it’s natural for roosters to be combative with one another for food and mates, birds used in cockfighting are selectively bred to be more willing to fight, Leighann Lassiter, animal cruelty policy director for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), told The Dodo.
And their lives get worse. Cockfighting birds are often injected with adrenaline-boosting drugs or steroids to make them unnaturally aggressive so they’re willing to fight to the death, and they’re also put through torturous training designed to make them combative.
“They go through a physical conditioning regime called a ‘keep’ for about two weeks before they plan to fight,” Lassiter said.
“Cockfighting is a very brutal thing,” Maura Davies, vice president of communications for the SPCA of Texas, told The Dodo. “These animals are born, raised, bred and very often medicated to make them very aggressive and to make them fight. Once these birds are ‘trained,’ they are then taken to a fighting arena often at that point.”
And when the birds eventually fight, they sustain horrific injuries — if they’re not killed.
“People usually throw them at each other and force them to fight,” Davies said. “There are a couple different kinds of bird fights that happen. There are bird fights where the birds fight with nothing attached to them, and there are fights where the birds have razor blades or other sharp implements attached to the spurs on their feet.”
When razor blades are involved, the fights are bloodier and quicker.
“They are gored, sliced and have their eyes and lungs punctured while spectators cheer and wager on their life,” Lassiter said. “To make matters worse, children are often present at these events. They are taught it’s OK to throw two innocent creatures into a ring, and the strong one should win and the weak one should die.”
While the average lifespan of a cockfighting rooster is unknown, it’s likely not long.
“Some will be very badly injured,” Davies said. “Others will be killed very quickly, but it really depends on the fight and the roosters. These fighting roosters live short and brutal lives, and they die in pain and suffering.”
When roosters are properly loved and cared for, they can live up to 10 years and often become quite affectionate toward their humans.
While these roosters have known anything but love, their rescuers are working hard to save as many of them as they can.
In the United States, cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states, and a punishable felony in 40 states. The officer confiscated the animals and arrested the driver. The officer then called the SPCA of Texas, which was able to relocate the birds to a place where they could be cared for.
Out of the 63 birds in the van, 55 of them were roosters and eight were hens. While only the males are used in cockfighting, the females were probably kept for breeding purposes, according to Davies.
Staff members from SPCA of Texas transported the animals to an undisclosed facility in Texas. The exact place can’t be revealed as people involved in cockfighting have already tried to steal back the birds so they can continue using them in fights, according to Davies.
“They’re being housed in large kennels with food and water,” Davies said. “There were some that had feather loss across their wings and chest, and our veterinary staff is assessing each animal to determine what care they might need and to provide that care.”
Since the roosters are so wired to fight, they have to be kept in separate kennels — and to minimize distress, the rescuers are even making sure they can’t see each other.
“When roosters are born and taught to fight to the death, they get very violent towards each other, even if they’re separated from each other by barriers,” Davies said. “So we make sure they can’t see each other.”
Sadly, it’s extremely difficult to rehome fighting roosters since they’re capable of fighting with other birds. That said, Davies said they will do everything they can to find the roosters and hens new homes.
“We will seek any option that we possibly can, and we do have a lot more options than we used to regarding sanctuaries that will take these fighting roosters,” Davies said. “We will do the best.”