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Texas cops cuff 176 at illegal cockfight

100 cocks taken to shelter

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Texas cops arrested 176 people on Saturday at an illegal cockfight around 50 miles northwest of Fort Worth, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Police backed by a helicopter swooped on the property of Roy Dale Saxton, 46, who allegedly charged $20 a head for admission to the event in Poolville. As well as the arrests, around a dozen children aged 5 to 16 were taken into the care of the Child Protective Services.

Officers confiscated "underground cockfighting magazines" and the "short, razor-sharp knives that breeders affix to the backs of their gamecocks' legs, which the birds use to stab and kick each other to death".

Six birds were found dead at the scene, while 100 were taken to an animal shelter.

Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler said in a statement: "It was deeply disturbing to see the way in which live animals were handled and were expected to die by such a gruesome death."

Those arrested face charges of "gambling or cruelty to animals", while one was wanted for murder.

Saxton - who organised the raffle of "a new motor home equipped with living quarters and rooster cages for travelling game breeders" as part of the festivities - was held on "a Class C misdemeanour gambling charge", but released from jail on Sunday after paying a $300 fine.

Authorities declined to say whether further charges against him are in the pipeline, but said the investigation is ongoing. Saxton has a long criminal record for "burglary, vehicle theft and forgery" and he's currently on parole until 2015 for previous convictions.

Cockfighting is illegal in all US states, and a criminal offence in 39, including Texas. Elsewhere, it's a misdemeanour punishable by a fine.

Nonetheless, it's a big bucks business. According to the Guardian, a single cockfight may attract a gambling purse of up to $30,000, with owners paying around $300 to enter a bird. ®

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