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Officials find cockfighting operation



Published: Thu, July 19, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Police said bettors probably wagered $8,000 each week on the roosters.

YOUNGSTOWN -- The discovery of a cockfighting operation in an East Side home has led to a happy ending, of sorts.

An injured pit bull found in the yard of the home had been stolen, and the owner has been found.

Dave Nelson, Animal Charity humane investigator, said the owner, however, doesn't want to get involved with pressing charges against whomever took the dog and used it to fight other dogs. The pet was found with bite marks on its neck and head.

What was found: Members of the Mahoning Valley Drug Task Force called Nelson on Wednesday after finding the pit bull, 150 to 200 pigeons and 50 to 80 roosters in the basement of 1358 Grandview Ave. The task force was there to arrest a man indicted by a federal grand jury on cocaine charges.

Nelson said the roosters, because of the unsanitary condition of the basement, would have to be destroyed. "I just can't take any chances," he said.

Nelson said he would confer with city Prosecutor Dionne Almasy about filing charges of cockfighting and animal cruelty. He suspects three to four people were involved.

There hasn't been a cockfighting operation this big that Nelson can remember. He recalled a small one, also on the East Side, in 1994, and a small disorganized one on the North Side in 1997. Police said the bettors probably wagered $8,000 each week at the Grandview house.

Elaborate setup: The basement of the home was set up for elaborate cockfights, Nelson said. Aside from a carpeted ring and walls for the fight, there is a room where the birds were weighed and medicated.

He found syringes, spurs or claws for the roosters and medications. Most of the items came from Puerto Rico or Mexico.

Police said cocaine was used to make the birds fight.

When asked about the 150 to 200 pigeons found at the home, Nelson hesitated before answering. A woman at the house told him she raises them to cook and eat.

"I just said 'OK, whatever,'" he said. "I told the woman she had to close down the cockfighting operation and she is cooperating fully."




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