A methamphetamine arrest by Minnesota-based U.S. marshals led to the rescue of 1,300 animals from a suspected dog and cockfighting operation in Pierce County, Wis., about an hour east of Minneapolis, the sheriff reported Thursday.
Marshals went to the property to arrest Houa Yang on a felony methamphetamine charge last week. While there, they found an indoor marijuana-growing operation, a pound of dried marijuana, four pounds of meth in a safe and more than 1,300 animals living in “deplorable conditions,” Pierce County Sheriff Nancy Hove said.
The marshals alerted the sheriff, who went to the property and also arrested Senyen Vang, 36, on a drug charge, Hove said. Yang and Vang lived on the property. Neither has been charged with crimes related to animal cruelty because the scene is still being processed, Hove said.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is helping with evidence collection at the property in Spring Valley, about 20 miles southeast of River Falls.
During the meth arrests, the sheriff found more than a dozen dogs with scars and injuries tied to heavy chains. The dogs were allegedly bred for fighting. Roosters were found with physical alterations common to cockfighting; paraphernalia associated with such fighting also was found, the sheriff said.
When birds are used for fighting, breeders often pluck their feathers and hack off their wattles and combs so they don’t get pulled off in fights. Some also cut off the birds’ spurs, the bony protrusions on their legs, to strap on deadlier weapons. Dogs are left outdoors with inadequate shelter.
The animals were taken by the ASPCA to temporary emergency shelters where they will be cared for by veterinary and behavior experts until the court determines custody.
“Animal fighting is an inhumane practice that is unfortunately common throughout the country,” said Tim Rickey, vice president of ASPCA field investigations and response.
Hove said it is the county’s second-largest dogfighting bust in the past two years. “When we are made aware of any animal cruelty issues, we do the best we can to investigate and hold those responsible accountable for the suffering they’ve caused these animals,” Hove said.
In Wisconsin, engaging in animal fighting, which includes possession of dogs or roosters for the purpose of fighting, is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to 3.5 years for first-time offenders. Penalties increase for repeat offenders.
Houa Yang was in the Sherburne County jail Thursday. Senyen Vang was in custody in Pierce County.