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CONTACT 13: Crackdown on cockfighting

Posted at 6:29 PM, Aug 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-07 18:45:27-04

Animal fighting in Nevada is a more serious crime than it used to be. 

Authorities call it a scourge on our society, and as Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears explains, our community is cracking down.

Whether it's roosters, dogs or any other creature, animal fighting is a first-offense felony in Nevada. 

It's been that way since late 2013 when Senator Mark Manendo strengthened state law. 

That, along with Southern Nevada's new anti-cruelty task force, means more people in more trouble.

"It's really quite shocking if anybody's ever had the misfortune of even having to hear the sounds associated with cockfighting, with dogfighting, I mean, it is a brutal, brutal activity that people engage in," said Chief Deputy District Attorney Amy Ferreira.

Ferreira has been involved in at least four recent cockfighting cases.  

"We've gotten many felony convictions in the past year. People have been sent to jail." 

The Humane Society of the United States says first-offense felony laws are crucial because cockfighters seek out states with the weakest laws to carry out their crimes.  

Wednesday night's arrests marked the second big bust in Las Vegas just three months. 

Eduardo Leyva was arrested in May after Metro and Animal Control caught a cockfight in progress.

"There were people there, there were birds there, there were dead birds there, there was blood there, and my understanding is there were people all over the place trying to get away," Ferreira said.

Cockfighting is a big money-maker because those who go to watch often bet. 

But under state law, people who find it entertaining to watch animals try to kill each other can be prosecuted too.

"The people that maybe we describe as witnesses are participants," Ferreira explained. "So people that are going there to watch the fights, whether they have a bird there that they're fighting or not.

The same is true for dogfighting rings, but Ferreira says those cases are much rarer and more underground.

"They're not necessarily in neighborhoods the way that we've seen with cockfighting cases, so there might not be somebody to say hey, I hear something strange going on next door."

The Humane Society of the United States offers a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in dogfighting or cockfighting.

Anyone with information about illegal animal fighting in their area should call The HSUS's animal fighting tip line at 877-TIP-HSUS and their information will be kept confidential.