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News / Northwest

Cockfighting roosters seized and euthanized in Yakima County

By Questen Inghram, Yakima Herald-Republic
Published: May 28, 2024, 7:52am

YAKIMA — Yakima County sheriff’s deputies killed 64 cockfighting roosters May 10 near Zillah as they were responding to a call about the welfare of horses on the property.

The move was criticized by an animal rescue group that had lined up homes for the birds in connection with another possible law enforcement operation on site.

Heartwood Haven in Roy posted a statement on social media stating that the organization was informed earlier by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives about the roosters and had spent weeks finding homes for them at the time they were killed.

“We are completely devastated for all of the birds. It’s extremely rare for cockfighting survivors to make it out alive. This group had a way out and they had a chance at a possible future,” the post reads.

Usually, roosters in cockfighting operations are euthanized because few places will provide them new homes.

Spokesperson Casey Schilperoort said the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office was not planning to go to the property, but received a call about the welfare of horses there. When deputies responded, he said, they needed to deal with the cockfighting roosters since they are illegal.

“We did not want to have to do that but we have to use our resources appropriately. We have other calls for service involving human safety,” Schilperoort said, adding that he understands why people might be upset.

He said that the property owners were present at the time and deputies acted professionally and cleaned up the dead roosters. Hens and chicks were left to the owners, as they are legal. Schilperoort said in an email that the horses were found to be healthy.

Earlier operation

The Sheriff’s Office assisted the ATF in April as it conducted over 20 search warrants in a raid targeting La Nuestra Familia, a prison gang. Agents seized 37 guns, cocaine, methamphetamine and more than 8,000 fentanyl pills, along with the cockfighting roosters that ended up at Heartwood Haven.

Thirty-four people were indicted and accused of a variety of crimes, including attempting to kill witnesses. Two of them were indicted on unlawful animal fighting charges. The joint federal-state operation, led by the ATF, began in 2018 and involved over 350 law enforcement personnel across the state and in Louisiana, Colorado and Arkansas.

A property at 191 Buena Loop Road, Zillah, is mentioned in the federal indictments. The Sheriff’s Office was called to that property on May 10 for an animal problem, according to Sheriff’s Office call logs.

Schilperoort said it was the ATF, not the Sheriff’s Office, that coordinated with the animal sanctuary in the April raid.

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Kate Tsyrklevich, co-founder of Heartwood Haven, disputes this. In an email, she said she had spoken with county deputies previously about how to get the roosters.

Heartwood Haven said in its post that Yakima County Animal Control, which was present at the time of the killing of the roosters, should have known about their rescue efforts and willingness to take them in.

Schilperoort said that the Sheriff’s Office was not aware of a sanctuary willing to take roosters and is open to reaching out in the future, so long as it has adequate time and staffing.

Attending a cockfight is a felony. The Washington State Gambling Commission accepts tips on cockfighting and dog fighting through its website, wsgc.wa.gov. Tips can be anonymous.