QUEENS — About 3,000 birds were seized and nine people were arrested in a massive cockfighting ring complete with high-stakes bets in a Woodhaven arena that reached $10,000 each fight, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The investigation, Schneiderman said, conducted with the help of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, focused on locations in Queens, Brooklyn and Ulster County, culminating in three raids last weekend.
“Cockfighting is a cruel, abusive and barbaric practice that tortures animals, endangers the health and safety of the public and is known to facilitate other crimes,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
The operation began at a cockfighting event held on Saturday night at 74-26 Jamaica Ave. in Woodhaven, in which dozens of people participated, including bettors and spectators, Schneiderman said.
The cockfights had been held there on a bimonthly basis at least since May with individual bets reaching $10,000.
Six of the about 70 people taken initially into custody were charged with animal fighting, a felony carrying a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a maximum fine of $25,000, Schneiderman said.
The ASPCA confiscated 65 birds and also discovered a rooster that had been killed during the event, the agency said.
At the same time, police raided Pet NV, a pet store at 71 Central Ave. in Bushwick, where 50 fighting birds were found in the basement beneath the shop. The owner, Jeremias Nieves, 74, was arrested and also charged with animal fighting.
The roosters, Schneiderman said, were found in poor condition. The birds had their natural spurs cut off and sharper artificial spurs were attached to their bodies instead. They were also injected with performance-enhancing drugs.
On Sunday morning, investigators also raided a 90-acre farm in Plattekill, NY, which for years operated under the guise of a poultry farm.
The ASPCA recovered about 3,000 birds there and police arrested the farm manager Manuel Cruz, 60, as well as Jesus Cruz, 37, a worker. Their charges were not immediately available.
For years, according to Schneiderman, roosters bred and trained at the farm were transported to the cockfighting event in Woodhaven and to the Brooklyn pet shop.
"No animal should be forced to fight to the death for human entertainment and profit, and we are proud to play a leading role in removing and caring for these victimized birds," said ASPCA president Matthew Bershadker.
The ASPCA said it established a shelter at an undisclosed location, where the birds will be temporarily housed and cared for.
"We're still in the process of removing the birds from an upstate farm, but they're all being transported to our temporary shelter where they will be housed and cared for pending disposition," Emily Schneider, a spokeswoman for the ASPCA, said. "The birds are considered evidence until disposition is determined by the court."