November 28, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
18°F
test

Formerly cooped chickens get sanctuary

LORAIN — Animal welfare activists said the 38 roosters that were part of an alleged cockfighting ring in Sheffield Township made a pathetic sight Wednesday as they were moved to a Ravenna animal sanctuary.

They were without the red, frilly combs that normally adorn the tops of their heads — they instead were reduced to jagged-edge stumps, said Annette Fisher, director of the Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary in Ravenna.

BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Annette Fisher, director of Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary in Ravenna, holds one of the chickens confiscated from a coop in Sheffield Township. View video of some of the rescued chickens by following this link.

The majority also was missing feathers from the breast down and many had had black nubs in place of yellow spurs on their talons, which are their natural weapon against predators. Some had scars across their eyes and nearly all of them were underweight with their breastbones visible, she said.

All of the roosters showed signs of abuse consistent with the sport, according to a veterinarian who examined the birds.

John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues for the Humane Society of the United States, said those injuries are all too common in his line of work.

“The comb can bleed profusely when they fight, so they cut it off so they don’t get blood in their eyes,” Goodwin said. “They remove the feathers so, in the midst of battle, they won’t overheat.

And the spurs are sliced off so that knives or ice picks can be tied on, giving the rooster an actual weapon during the fight, he said.

All 38 roosters along with four hens that were confiscated Sunday afternoon were moved Wednesday to the animal sanctuary in Ravenna, about 20 miles northeast of Akron. About 100 more roosters and hens still remain at the chicken coop on a half-acre of land on Lowell Avenue that sheriff’s deputies raided Sunday afternoon.

“We took the ones that there was definite evidence of abuse,” said sheriff’s Capt. Rich Resendez. “We’re talking to the prosecutor about what to do about the rest.

Resendez hopes to turn the investigation over to the Lorain city prosecutor this week so that charges can be filed against the property’s owner, 83-year-old Felix Rosario of Lorain, and the more than 40 other people who were found on the property.

Felix has denied any wrongdoing and told deputies that he uses the roosters for breeding.

Mike Miller, educator for the Medina County Ohio State University Extension Office, said he wasn’t aware of any reasons that someone would cut off a comb or shear feathers off a rooster in the normal course of their care, but he said spurs sometimes are cut off an especially aggressive rooster. Generally, that isn’t done to several dozen of them, he said.

Miller also said that the ratio of roosters needed to breed is about three roosters to 100 hens.

At the sanctuary, the birds will placed in long, rectangle pens where they can run around. They will have to be separated by chicken wire and a sheet of some kind will have to be placed in between each pen so the roosters can’t see each other.

“They’re bred to hate all other roosters,” Fisher said about the restrictive conditions.

Contact Adam Wright at 329-7151 or awright@chroniclet.com.