A Rochester man has admitted he was raising up to 240 roosters at his Danby Drive residence to sell for cockfights in Portland, Ore., Texas, and as far off as Mexico, court papers state.
The roosters being raised in a pen area behind the home in the 17900 block of Danby Drive were trained to attack one another and were outfitted with spurs on their legs, so they would be better able to inflict fatal injury, according to court papers.
Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states. During cockfights, people place bets on which rooster will survive as two birds fight to the death. Washington State Gambling Commission agents seized 300 chickens while serving a search warrant at the Rochester residence Monday and arrested a man on suspicion of felony crimes related to raising roosters for cockfighting.
The 35-year-old suspect, Victor Hugo Gallegos Chavez, told law enforcement that "each rooster was worth at least $100 each and that he knew cockfighting was illegal in the United States, but admitted to selling some to family members in Mexico," court papers state.
Washington State Gambling Commission agents arrested Chavez on suspicion of 100 counts of animal-cruelty in the first-degree, animal fighting and second-degree professional gambling.
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Anne Hirsch found probable cause to support the allegations during a court hearing Tuesday and ordered him held at the Thurston County Jail with bail set at $25,000.
Chavez also has a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE hold placed on him, court papers state. This means at a later date he will have to appear in a federal courthouse for alleged immigration violations.
A Gambling Commission spokeswoman said Tuesday that all 300 birds - 240 roosters and about 60 hens - were seized during Monday night's raid. As of Tuesday, all of the birds had been euthanized, she said. Several of the birds will be preserved as evidence in the case, she added.
Monday's raid of Chavez's Danby Drive SW property was the culmination of a nearly two-year investigation that began in July 2012.
According to court papers:
On July 14, 2012, a special agent with the gambling commission observed two people at the Danby Drive property training roosters to fight. Another agent with the gambling commission spoke to neighbors, who said that they could constantly hear the roosters. The neighbors also said that different vehicles, including expensive ones, were constantly driving in and out of the property.
When a Thurston County sheriff's detective visited the property in October, 2013, he asked Chavez why the roosters were tethered to barrels, and he told him it was so the roosters would not fight each other.
Surveillance at the property in January revealed that people there were training the roosters on how to fight. In April, a detective interviewed Chavez's mother, and she told him that they don't fight the birds on their property, "but they take them down to Portland to fight them." The woman added that people recently came to the home and purchased some roosters.
When law enforcement raided the property on Monday, officers found small knives and slashers, both long and short, that are believed to be attached to the birds' legs for different styles of fighting.
Officers also found "coping saws, which are used to remove the natural spur from the leg of the rooster in order to attach the knife. Antibiotics, vitamins for injection and other medical supplies used in cockfighting also were found in an outbuilding. Other seized materials include cockfighting magazines and shipping containers.
Money orders in the amount of $450 and $500 also were seized.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445; firstname.lastname@example.org