Sheriff's officials in Polk and St. Croix counties and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) seized about 1,200 birds from four properties accused of holding a cockfighting ring on Tuesday
This is part of an ongoing investigation that launched last January, but this time, however, the birds are being checked for bird flu.
Police executed search warrants Tuesday morning and made several arrests after finding cockfighting paraphernalia which included a fighting pit and gaffs "used to maximize injury during fights," according to the ASPCA.
Roosters, hens and chicks were caged or living in makeshift enclosures on the various properties, and some of them appeared to have suffered trauma consistent with fighting including the removal of their combs and wattles.
"This is a very large undertaking," said St. Croix County Sheriff John Shilts. "I want to thank the ASPCA for the expertise and resources that they have committed. Without them, law enforcement would struggle to manage these scenes."
Shilts said some of those roosters were even being shipped to other states and Mexico.
In Wisconsin, conducting a cockfight and possessing fighting birds are considered felonies, each punishable by up to 3 years and 6 months in a state prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. Being a spectator at a cockfight carries misdemeanor penalties.
In late January, police busted a cockfighting ring on a western Wisconsin dairy farm and made 19 arrests, but the owner of the farm, a veterinarian, told police he had no idea it was going on. It's unclear how many of the individuals from the January investigation were involved in Tuesday's raid.
The ASPCA said they're aware of the avian flu threat and they haven't been able to rule out any type of disease in these birds. They will be at the farms for a few days as the investigation ensues.