This week, over 100 animals were removed from a suspected animal fighting operation in Lake Butler, Florida. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA), when a search warrant was executed on Tuesday, investigators found dozens of animals living in conditions which were described as “deplorable.”
Many of the animals on the property showed signs of neglect and they were found to be living without access to food, water or shelter. The ASPCA assisted the Union County Sheriff’s Office to gather evidence and remove approximately 100 roosters and hens, as well as seven dogs – investigators found items believe to be animal-fighting paraphernalia on the property as well.
The Union County Sheriff’s Officer arrested 50-year-old Eric S. Cox of Lake Butler on multiple drug charges which stemmed from the search of his property; numerous animal fighting and animal cruelty charges are pending.
According to the ASPCA, Cox is no stranger to the dark blood-sport of organized animal fighting; he was convicted of dogfighting in 2011 in a case which involved the seizure of more than a hundred animals.
“Animal fighting is a despicable crime that has plagued our country and become both an animal welfare and public safety issue,” said Adam Leath, Southeast director of Investigations for ASPCA Field Investigations and Response. “We’re grateful to the Union County Sheriff’s Office for pursuing this case to send a clear message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated in the community.”
The animals seized from the property were transported by the ASPCA to a temporary shelter at an undisclosed location; they will be cared for by a local agency until a court determines custody.
The ASPCA is providing additional assistance, including behavior assessments conducted by its Anti-Cruelty Behavior team, as well as legal support provided by its Legal Advocacy department to ensure the best legal outcome for these animals.
In Florida, animal fighting, the possession of animals for fighting and being a spectator at a cockfight or dogfight are all third-degree felonies, with a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison. Misdemeanor animal cruelty is punishable by up to one year of imprisonment. For more information on the ASPCA’s efforts to tackle animal fighting and what the public can do to help, please visit www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty.
(Photos via ASPCA)
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