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Flight from Fight

Laura Beil

Tri-City Tales Issue No. 5

When Grand Prairie police broke up an illegal cock-fighting breeder operation on April 27, 2021, everyone involved had to come up with a plan: where to place 359 birds. Chicks and hens might have been easy, but roosters grotesquely prized for fighting were another matter. Grand Prairie Animal Services suspected dozens of them were on the property, and they would need to be evacuated immediately. They contacted the non-profit Animal Investigation and Response and the Tri-City Animal Shelter for help.

As luck would have it, Tri-City had empty dog kennels that the staff could quickly convert into rooster pens for 32 birds. The day the search warrant was served, Grand Prairie Animal Services and AIR spent hours arranging a safe haven for the animals, which meant examining, photographing, and assigning identification to every bird, down to each incubated egg.

Cockfighting is one of the world’s oldest spectator blood sports. It is also profoundly cruel, and in every state, against the law. Breeders remove a bird’s wattle under his beak, and crown, and replace his natural back claw with a sharp metal spur. One of the competitors often dies. Among the evidence seized in the Grand Prairie raid were syringes and drugs used to intensify the animals’ aggression.

That meant the birds needed to be kept out of sight of one another to keep their tempers down. Before the birds arrived, Tri-City staff draped tarps between the cages to make sure no rooster caught a glimpse of another. They remained at the shelter for weeks in court custody. Safely isolated—and for the first time in their lives, well cared for-- the birds didn’t seem to mind the cacophony of barking dogs, or the staff who lifted them in and out of their cages. (How the dogs and staff felt about all that crowing might be another matter.)

Weeks later, the roosters received transport to a rescue sanctuary out of state, where one-by-one they were relocated to adoptive homes. Today, all the roosters are comfortably retired, where their only worry is how to find the best place in the sun.

Photo credit: Animal Investigation and Response

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