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More Than 1,500 Animals Seized In Dog And Cockfighting Operations At A Wisconsin Home

The animals were seized from a residence in Pierce County, Wis.
Courtesy of the Pierce County Sheriff's Office
The animals were seized from a residence in Pierce County, Wis.

Updated Friday at 9:55 a.m. ET

Police seized 20 pit bulls and about 1,500 hens and roosters, many of which were destined for fighting, from a home in western Wisconsin.

The dogs and birds were "living in deplorable conditions," according to a joint statement issued Thursday by the Pierce County Sheriff's Office and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"You could tell they were used for fighting," Sheriff Nancy Hove told NPR.

Officers found the dogs with scars and injuries. They were attached to heavy chains, "almost logging chains."

The roosters' feet were cut, indicating razor blades had been attached to their feet, Hove said. Agents also found a square, wooden box – a fighting ring set up in one of the barns.

Two people who were living in the property, Houa Dia Yang and Senyen Vang, are in custody. It is unclear who ran the dogfighting and cockfighting operations or for how long.

Hove said the magnitude of the discovery was uncommon in their county, at least in the 35 years she has been in law enforcement. About a year ago, her agents seized some 50 dogs. "This is the second large-scale animal cruelty case we have encountered in the past two years," she said.

Tim Rickey, vice president of ASPCA's Field Investigations and Response, said animal fighting "is unfortunately common throughout the country."

Last year, authorities seized 7,000 birds in Los Angeles County. It was the largest cockfighting seizure in U.S. history, reported the Los Angeles Times.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Office discovered the animals on a return trip to the property. Agents first visited the residence on August 30 with the U.S. Marshals Service, when Yang was arrested in connection with illegal drugs.

Officers noted illegal narcotics were present and returned to the house to recover indoor marijuana plants, a pound of dried marijuana and a safe with four pounds of methamphetamine. Vang, a woman living at the property, was then arrested.

Cockfighting and dogfighting are illegal across the country. In the state of Wisconsin, engaging in animal fighting is punishable with a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to six years.

The ASPCA said it moved all of the pit bulls and birds to emergency shelters for care and treatment until a court determines custody.

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Sasha Ingber is a reporter on NPR's breaking news desk, where she covers national and international affairs of the day.