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I-TEAM: Continuing the investigation of illegal bird fight in Emanuel County

Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 4:44 PM EDT
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EMANUEL COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Questions are emerging about what happened to more than 700 birds seized in an illegal cockfighting bust, one that the U.S. Attorney’s Office broke up in Emanuel County more than a week ago.

Our I-TEAM found that: the federal government is reluctant to answer what happened to all of those birds.

Nearly 200 people attended the cockfighting event. Some of those in attendance contacted the I-TEAM telling us a story they say the government is not telling the public: a story nearly as bloody as cockfighting itself.

“Stadium-style seating in a large arena where participates would strap razor-sharp knives on animals and threw them in an octagon ring to stage bloody fights to the death,” one person said.

A week ago, “in the most gruesome of conditions,” U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine publicly condemned the organizers, participants, and attendees of the cockfight in Emmanuel County.

“In an arena left to ancient Rome or some other barbaric place like that and to see it in operation in our very midst,” Christine said.

What happened to the birds?

“So, they were turned over to the custody of the United States Marshal Department. Another field of expertise I am just not familiar with,” Christine said.

According to these court documents obtained by the I-TEAM, the government sought permission to allow animal techs to take physical custody of the seized animals:

“Necessary care including veterinary treatment shall be provided to any animal seized as required by the animal welfare act.

But attendees tell us what they witnessed after the raid was not veterinary treatment.

Our sources did not want to talk publicly due to the possible charges they could face from attending the fight. What they describe is not easy to hear. Our sources say government officials disposed of the animals - killing them on-site in a manner that is too graphic to share.

Our I-TEAM sent an email to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Our I-TEAM sent emails to the U.S. Attorney's Office about an illegal bird fight in Emanuel County.
Our I-TEAM sent emails to the U.S. Attorney's Office about an illegal bird fight in Emanuel County.

A spokesperson replied:

“There were 769 chickens seized at the cockfight and taken into custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, which is tasked with taking steps to responsibly care for the animals with the interest of public health as a priority. Many of these birds were brought in from other states and were bred and kept for the sole purpose of fighting… state law prohibits the importation of poultry into the state without an official certificate of veterinary inspection.

Our I-TEAM sent emails to the U.S. Attorney's Office about an illegal bird fight in Emanuel County.
Our I-TEAM sent emails to the U.S. Attorney's Office about an illegal bird fight in Emanuel County.((Source: WRDW))

The response did not answer our questions, so we wrote back: “All 769 had to be put down?”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, the leading agency in the operation responded:

Our I-TEAM sent emails to the U.S. Attorney's Office about an illegal bird fight in Emanuel County.
Our I-TEAM sent emails to the U.S. Attorney's Office about an illegal bird fight in Emanuel County.((Source: WRDW))

“They were taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals service. That question would appropriately be addressed to them”

The U.S. Attorneys and the U.S. marshals both work under the same department, the U.S. Department of Justice.

“We will absolutely not celebrate these bloody celebrations that victimize animals for the sick thrill of spectators,” Christine said.

Our I-TEAM called and emailed the marshal’s office. The office replied stating “Due to potential health and safety issues, the fighting roosters were humanely euthanized.”

Our I-TEAM did ask for details into what is considered humanely euthanized.

We’ll keep you updated.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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