Authorities uncovered a cockfighting pen and supplies used to treat injured birds in the town of Holland in what could be the county’s first prosecuted animal fighting case.
An anonymous tip led La Crosse County sheriff’s investigators to W7109 Evans Valley Road on Wednesday where they found roosters locked inside wire cages and a room in a metal pole barn used for cockfights, according to a report.
Blood and feathers were stuck to a wall. In a cabinet, they found pain medication, powder, tape and needles used to sew wounds.
Property owned Nhia Vang, 54, declined to speak to investigators without an attorney. He is a multicultural services liaison at Western Technical College helping minority students on campus.
Vang faces charges of instigating fights between animals and training and keeping animals for fighting. He appears March 26 in La Crosse County Circuit Court.
More arrests are possible as the investigation continues. On Tuesday, investigators and animal control officers took injured roosters, a goat and a dog from a town of Onalaska property.
All told, authorities seized 43 birds from the two properties, said Amiie Gabrilska, senior animal control officer. They are housed in a confidential location.
“We’re trying to get them less stressed and settled,” she said.
One of the injured birds in the town of Onalaska had worn feathers on his neck, open sores and duct tape on its spurs, according to reports. Other birds also had sores.
A pit bull mix on the property was kept in an outdoor area covered in feces. The water in its dish was frozen.
Two men who live on the property denied raising the roosters to fight, claiming initially they slaughtered them for food, according to reports. One later said his dad raised the roosters to relieve stress and that he keeps them as pets.
Cockfighting is not a tradition in the Hmong culture, said Koua Vang, the executive director of the United Asian of Wisconsin organization. Though cockfighting is socially acceptable, wagering on the fights is illegal.
In La Crosse County, the sheriff’s department has investigated a couple of other cockfighting cases, though this is believed to the first that resulted in criminal charges, Capt. Kurt Papenfuss said.
Cockfighting is illegal in all states and a felony in 39, including Wisconsin, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Watching a fight is a misdemeanor offense.
In some cases, fights can last more than 30 minutes and can result in the death of one or both birds, the humane society states. Birds that escape death often suffer punctured lungs, broken bones and pierced eyes.
Gambling is standard among spectators, and cockfights have also been linked to drug trafficking and homicide, the humane society reports.