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Alleged cock-fighting ring busted

By: Penne Usher, Telegraph Correspondent
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A routine traffic stop led to the arrest of two El Dorado County men and the discovery of an alleged cock-fighting operation. El Dorado County Sheriff’s deputies along with the El Dorado County Animal Services discovered and subsequently euthanized, nearly 250 game birds - reportedly used for cock fighting - on the Garden Valley property of Saul Cuevas Ayala. Deputies stopped Ayala in Diamond Springs Feb. 13 for a minor vehicle code violation, according to officials. During the stop deputies reportedly noticed a “suspicious” box in the rear of Ayala’s pickup. “Deputies inspected the box and found two roosters inside,” said Lt. Bryan Golmitz of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. “They appeared to have injuries consistent with cock fighting.” Upon a search of the vehicle deputies found several “slashers,” which are metal blades that can be strapped to the legs of fighting roosters. Ayala and his passenger Rogelio Reyes-Higareda were both arrested on suspicion of possession of bird fighting equipment, possession of fighting game cocks and conspiracy. A search warrant was served at Ayala’s home in the 4000 block of Brush Bunny Lane in Garden Valley. During the service of the warrant, several items related to cockfighting were located and collected as evidence, Golmitz said. “It appears that this was a significant operation,” said Henry Brzezinski, chief of Animal Services in a press release. “Typically, large amounts of money, drugs and weapons are involved in cockfighting matches.” Other crimes and violence are often associated with cock fighting activities, Brzezinski said. “This is definitely a situation we want to address if we suspect it is happening,” he said. Cockfighting is illegal in the U.S. Penalties vary from state to state. If convicted in California, penalties can include jail time and/or fines up to $5,000 for a first offense and $25,000 for a second offense. Brzezinski noted that while the states surrounding California consider cockfighting to be a felony offense, California considers it a misdemeanor. “This may be one of the reasons why we are seeing more cockfighting operations here,” Brzezinski said. None of the 250-plus birds found on Ayala’s property could be saved. “The birds were humanely euthanized because they were either in bad shape physically or their behavior was too aggressive for them to be rehabilitated,” Brzezinski said.