There are two aspects of cock fighting about which you may receive complaints:
- Cock fighter "hotels" - similar to dog fighting, birds used for fighting may be housed in abandoned buildings or sheds. (In rural areas, fighting cocks may be kept in barns or outbuildings.)
- Organized cock fights - these generally take place in cellars and alleys; in rural areas, they take place in barns. The birds are transported to and from the fights in decorated sacks about the size of pillow cases and are kept in cages until their turn to fight.
Big money is involved in cock fighting; as a result, investigating it can be dangerous; however, in general, a cock fighting ring is easier to infiltrate than a dog fighting ring. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has worked extensively with law enforcement agencies to break up illegal cock fighting rings. The HSUS can be used as a resource for a law enforcement agency investigating cock fighting (See pg 275 in Appendix IV, Fact Sheets and Articles, "Cockfighting Questions and Answers", and pg 208 in Appendix II, Resource Agencies, "The HSUS".)
Investigating "Cock Fighter Hotels"
In a city environment, you may receive a complaint about a rooster crowing in a backyard or in a building. In a rural environment, you may receive complaints about someone keeping large numbers of roosters.
Things to be aware of when investigating:
CAUTION: When you investigate a complaint of fighting cocks being kept in a building, handle such investigations with great care. BE AWARE OF BOOBY TRAPS, such as cut-away stairs, cut-away floors, razor blades imbedded in stair banisters, etc. Also, an attack dog may be roaming around loose. The dog may have his voice box and nails removed, and thus will not be heard. When you come through the door, he may lunge.
The condition of the birds
- Kept in single cages, stacked in double and triple layers
- Combs and wattles (red growths on head and under chin) cut off
- Bodies may be shaved: from half way down the chest to the bottom of their bodies or their entire back may be shaved (This is done to keep them cooler while fighting; it is also done to determine the winner - the loser has more wounds on his body)
Presence of paraphernalia
- Teasers - small stick with 8 - 10 strips of cloth attached to it, used to taunt the bird and make him aggressive
- Various types of sharp spurs (made of bone/plastic) which attach to the cock's dew claws to enable him to gash and hurt the other bird
- Sparring "gloves" - little leather booties that are temporarily placed over the spurs
- Glue stick to attach the spurs; candles to heat the glue
- Knives to cut the glue stick
- Nail files/toe clippers (like veterinarians use) to cut the claws
- Weight scales and cock holding bags (look like pillow cases)
- Syringes, antibiotics, alcohol
What to do
When you investigate a complaint about a large number of birds being harbored at a location, consider doing the following:
- Exigent Circumstances - If the door to the abandoned building is loosely chained, and you can see birds in immediate need of medical attention:
- Call the local humane agency for assistance.
- Based on exigent circumstances, break the chain, and have the birds removed and provided with medical attention.
- Take photographs of the animals at the veterinarian's.
- Find the owner of the building, if possible, to determine if he was aware that birds were housed there.
- Non-exigent Circumstances
- If the door is locked, and the property appears to be abandoned, contact the owner about a key to the building, if possible. In a large city, you can call the housing authority. Ask the owner or housing authority to accompany you to the building, along with the local humane society.
- If the door is locked, and you are unable to obtain a key, apply for a search warrant based on your evidence. Arrange for the humane society to meet you there.
NOTE: If you believe that there are birds in the building, and you have to leave to find the owner or obtain a search warrant, ensure that you leave an officer to guard the building so the animals are not removed.
- In either case, enter the property once you have found owners or obtained a search warrant and take photographs of the animals and the conditions in which they were kept. Seize any related paraphernalia on the property.
- Have the birds examined by a veterinarian and obtain a sworn statement indicating that the birds were used for fighting. Take photographs of any injuries.
- If the birds do not need to be euthanized, have them kept at the humane agency or other shelter as evidence until you complete your investigation. Ask the local humane society to obtain as much information as possible about any individuals who come to claim the bird(s), such as their license plate number, name of their veterinarian, etc.
Investigating a Cock Fighting Ring
You might receive complaints about cock fighting going on in an alley or a cellar; in a rural area, it may be a barn.
Things to be aware of when investigating:
Refer to "Investigating Cock Fighter Hotels - Things to Be Aware of When Investigating" on this page. The conditions of the birds and the paraphernalia will be the same.
What to do
Consider doing the following:
- Attempt to develop an informant to provide you with information about the participants and times of the fights.
- If you do not have an informant, do surveillance of the area to determine where and when fights are being held. Try to get someone in undercover.
- If you become aware of when a fight is to occur, (e.g., from personal observations at a fight), apply for a search warrant to conduct a raid of the premises.
IMPORTANT: Apply for a NO KNOCK search warrant and ensure that it specifies searching for all paraphernalia and searching above the ceiling as well - things often get hidden there.
- Arrange to have the local humane agency present to remove the birds. Humane agencies handling birds should be equipped with gloves and carrying bags.
- Be sure all parties who are involved in the raid wear either uniforms, hats, or jackets to separate themselves from the participants, in case weapons must be used. If there is an undercover person, ensure that everyone knows who it is.
- Ensure there is police coverage of all exits and entrances.
- Arrest lookouts and persons charging admission - for acting "in concert" with the organizers - which means they could be charged with a felony as well, depending on the circumstances (See Title 13, Section 352 (6)).
- Take photos of the birds and the conditions at the ring. If possible, use a video camera which can better capture the suffering involved in the event.
- Have the birds examined by a veterinarian and obtain a statement from him indicating their condition (eyes missing, puncture wounds, etc.) to indicate that they were used for fighting.
- Ask the local humane society to obtain as much information as possible about any individuals who come to claim the bird(s), such as their license plate number, name of their veterinarian, etc.