A two-month investigation into an illegal cockfighting operation ended last week in the town of Earlville, about 80 miles west of Chicago in the US state of Illinois. Undercover agents have been working their way into the illegal cockfighting operation, gathering evidence needed for the bust.
During the weekend, for a team of fifty police officers raided a rural barn where the fights took place. Evidence gathered by undercover agents let them time the raid to coincide with an actual fight. The officers surrounded the barn once the fight had begun Eight men were detained, including the host and several spectators. Cockfighting is illegal in the US, and the host, 51 year old Rudolfo Villanueva, faces felony charges, and may serve up to 3 years in prison. The spectators arrested also face charges, because all placed bets on the fight, and American gambling laws prohibit this kind of unlicensed gambling.
During the raid, officers seized evidence that suggests Villanueva may have been using money gained from the cockfighting operation to fund drug and weapons trafficking operations. Several weapons were confiscated from the site, including an AK-47 assault rifle.
Cockfighting is a brutal spectacle where specially trained roosters are shot up with steroids and forced to fight to the death. The birds are often outfitted with razors attached to their legs. Animal welfare professionals who accompanied the officers during the raid examined the birds found on the property. Because of the poor condition of the animals, and the way in which they had been raised, all were euthanized on the site.
Illinois upgraded cockfighting from a misdemeanor to a felony in 2007. Its illegality stems both from its unacceptable treatment of animals, as well as its connections with gambling. Animal fighting is one of the few forms of gambling in the US that is actually illegal. Casino gambling is allowed, but only in certain jurisdictions. Internet gambling in the United States is also technically legal, though the current laws do try to limit it.