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Published: Wednesday, 5/14/2014

Several plead guilty in cockfighting case


SWANTON — Individuals who were charged after a cockfighting operation was raided in rural Fulton County this month started appearing today in Eastern District Court, where they were entering guilty pleas.

Those who have appeared in court so far today — with more expected throughout the day — have been found guilty of single counts of attending and aiding and abetting animal fighting, a fourth-degree misdemeanor. They've each been ordered to pay a $250 fine. No one in court has claimed ownership of the animals.

Deputies seized 72 live roosters and cited 52 individuals on May 4. Fulton County Sheriff Roy Miller said at the time that deputies interrupted the event before fighting really began when they were dispatched to 9786 County Road N in Royalton Township. A neighbor reported suspicious activity possibly related to cockfighting, a blood sport where roosters specifically bred for their aggression fight to the death.

When authorities arrived, people were fleeing from a shed, though many later returned for their vehicles and were subsequently apprehended. The birds were found in cages and boxes around the property and in cars.

Brian Banister, the Fulton County dog warden who often assists in animal-related cases, said most of the birds had their combs and wattles cut off, which is typical for fighting roosters, called gamecocks. The birds also had the bony growths on their legs, called spurs, that roosters use for fighting, removed. Cockfighters often replace the spur with a metal blade or spike designed to inflict more damage.

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