Unknown cockfighting - 45 birds found dead or dying

Odessa, TX

Ector County

December 15, 2008

Animal Control manager Cheryl Brom is now mother hen to 25 famished roosters and hens in custody at Odessa Animal Control after they were found abandoned by their owner.

"It's a big deal," Brom said.

In her long history at Odessa Animal Control, Brom said this is the second time she's seen a case where an owner left fighting birds to starve. She said she's only had to "bust up" rooster fighting about five times since she started in the 1980s.

"You don't run across cruelty cases where (blood sport birds) were left to starve," she said.

She said fighting cocks can often bring prices in the $300 range, and she's surprised the owner didn't sell them before skipping town.

The surviving birds were found in West Odessa Monday at 2:15 p.m. - 20 other birds were already dead.

Brom said the property was leased by the suspect before he lost his job and skipped town.

A nearby neighbor said in a phone call everyone in the neighborhood knew the man was fighting roosters in his back yard. She later said she wished not to be interviewed.

Property owner J.R. Rodriguez said he had sold the property, but the title is still in Rodriquez's name. He said he didn't know the man who lived there now, but that the man was good about making payments on time. He said he had no idea what was going on at the property and that he had lost touch with neighbors, so he never heard complaints.

"I don't want people to think I was the one involved," Rodriguez said.

Animal cruelty is a Class A misdemeanor, which includes punishment up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, Brom said. After a medical examination from local veterinarian Henry Lide, Brom said she thinks she can prove at least 13 counts of animal cruelty.

A hearing will determine the fate of the feisty, feathered foes - the court date is set for Dec. 29.

Brom held one red-eyed rooster Wednesday morning as it thrashed at her glove with its pointy beak. It's breastplate was easily seen protruding through what little meat was left.

She said the belligerent bird's legs were almost frozen when she found it Monday.

"I was afraid we were going to lose the majority of them," she said.

Lide also said the typically testy birds were abnormally weak, and he could pick them up without hesitation.

"They were depressed when I saw them," Lide said. "They haven't received proper husbandry, and there were signs of them taking medicine for the purposes of fighting them."

He also said the roosters "spurs" had been removed, which is typical when one plans to put "gaffs" on the claw. Brom said gaffs are knife-like structures that a rooster strikes its opponent with. This causes the bird to bleed to death.

Brom said when the economy starts to go sour, pets may be among the first things left to fend for themselves. The mother hen has taken many creatures under her wing - she said the shelter has brought in little monkeys, iguanas, pythons, tarantulas, goats, scorpions and more.

"Animals deserve a better fate. It's better to chop off their heads than to let them starve like that," Lide said.

Update 12/29/08:  It pained Animal Control manager Cheryl Brom to discuss the fate of 25 riotous roosters she rescued Dec. 15 in West Odessa - they will all be euthanized.

Animal Control and Justice of the Peace Terry Lange held a hearing Monday morning regarding the fighting roosters left to starve.

The curious case of the missing animal owner hasn't been solved, thus Lange decided to give Animal Control custody of the belligerent birds.

"Within 10 days (of the animals being seized) there has to be a hearing with all parties involved," Lange said. He continued that without an owner coming forth, Animal Control will decide the fate of the roosters.

If the owner were to come forth, the punishment could be severe, Brom said. Animal cruelty is a Class A misdemeanor, which includes punishment up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, Brom said in an earlier interview.

After a medical examination by local veterinarian Henry Lide, Brom said she thinks she can prove at least 13 counts of animal cruelty.

"We can't find him to get that information," Brom said. "We have two years to file a warrant."

She said the case is still under investigation because the owner of the birds is missing. She said this case is difficult because the title was under owner's name J.R. Rodriguez, but he was in the process of selling the property to another man who Rodriguez said he has lost contact with.

Lange said the Texas Health and Safety Code allows law enforcement to seize mistreated animals.

However if an agency doesn't come forth to adopt and the owner is absent, then the animals will most likely have a fatal fate. Brom said this is common when dealing with fighting animals.

"They've suffered enough. I don't want to put them back in that situation," Brom said.

Brom said it was a sad decision to make, and it was even hard for her to talk about.

"It's better to do this than leave them in that environment," she said.

Update 12/30/08:  The unknown owner of 45 cockfighting birds found dead or dying on a West Texas property could face animal cruelty charges, officials said.

The surviving birds, which had no food or water when found earlier this month, probably will be euthanized, Odessa animal control manager Cheryl Brom said. She thinks she can prove at least 13 cases of animal cruelty.

Animal cruelty is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Brom told the Odessa American that the case is under investigation, and that authorities have two years to file a warrant in the case.

ANIMAL CRUELTY Law for Texas

42.09. Cruelty to Livestock Animals

>> (a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly: (1) tortures a livestock animal; (2) fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, or care for a livestock animal in the person's custody; (3) abandons unreasonably a livestock animal in the person's custody; (6) causes one livestock animal to fight with another livestock animal or with an animal as defined by Section 42.092;

>> (b) In this section: (1) "Abandon" includes abandoning a livestock animal in the person's custody without making reasonable arrangements for assumption of custody by another person; (2) "Cruel manner" includes a manner that causes or permits unjustified or unwarranted pain or suffering; (3) "Custody" includes responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of a livestock animal subject to the person's care and control, regardless of ownership of the livestock animal.

Reference:

The Associated Press

Bryan-College Station Eagle

Odessa American