Alleged Cockfighting Operation in Ontario Blamed on Cultural Traditions, Experts Say

Experts say it was one of the biggest cockfighting busts ever in the Inland Empire

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    Authorities say they have shut down one of the biggest illegal cockfighting operations ever in Southern California. The location -- which was busted four years ago -- was about the size of a farm and about 1,000 birds were involved, authorities say. Ted Chen reports from Ontario for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on August 13, 2012. (Published Monday, Aug. 13, 2012)

    Police on Monday said they have busted an alleged cockfighting operation on a 15-acre complex in Ontario that involved about 1,000 birds.

    Many of the birds at the complex on Cucamonga Drive, just south of the Pomona Freeway, were tied up, and most had their combs and waddles cut off and their spurs removed, authorities said. Experts say those are telltale signs of cockfighting preparations.

    "The people out here have indicated it's part of their culture," said Sylvia Lemus of the Inland Valley Humane Society. "They grew up doing this. They do this in their country."

    The Ontario Police Department says its officers and the Humane Society were called to the property Sunday.

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    Among those arrested and given citations were two public employees: a Los Angeles County auditor and a San Bernardino County engineer, police said.

    Investigators say they found cash, razors and other cockfighting paraphernalia on the property. Humane officials say the razors are attached to the roosters' legs to make the fighting bloodier and more deadly.

    "They're subjecting these animals to needless suffering," Lemus said.

    Hundreds of birds were seized from the same property four years ago, according to Humane Society officials. This is the fourth time officers have been called out to this location.

    The family that owns the land is denying any knowledge of what was apparently happening.

    "We don't have anything to do with the roosters," said owner Allen Shelby. "We don't have anything to do with what goes on back there, but we are fully cooperating with local law enforcement and the Inland Valley Humane Society and their investigation."

    The roosters will likely be removed once again. But authorities say they know cockfighting isn't going away, as long as there is public demand to see what some people consider a sport.

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