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Police pursue charges in suspected Florence cockfighting operation

  • These roosters are among 400 birds taken from Ravenwold Greenhouses at 1095 Florence Road in Northampton during a police raid last week. The vast majority of the birds were purposefully bred for cockfighting, according to The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which plans to humanely euthanize nearly all of them. The alleged cockfighting operation remains under investigation by the Northampton Police Department.   MSPCA



@ecutts_HG
Wednesday, May 30, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — City police say they are still investigating an alleged illegal cockfighting ring in Florence from which more than 400 roosters and hens were seized last week.

Northampton Police Detective Jared LaValle said Tuesday that criminal charges would likely be filed in the coming weeks in what animal welfare workers have described as one of the largest cockfighting busts in recent history. Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states.

The birds were seized from Ravenwold Greenhouses at 1095 Florence Road and taken by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to the MSPCA-Nevins Farm in Methuen. More than 100 roosters deemed too aggressive for rehabilitation have already been euthanized by the MSPCA, director of adoptions Mike Keiley said Tuesday.

Northampton police descended on Ravenwold Greenhouses on Thursday after an animal control officer discovered signs of cockfighting — an unusually large number of roosters, “boxing gloves” that are placed over a rooster’s spur during training and a bag of medication and needles common to cockfighting — during an annual barn inspection around 2:30 p.m. that day, according to Northampton Police Sgt. Victor Caputo.

The property is owned by Paul Duga Jr., of Hatfield, according to city records. Duga bought the farm in a foreclosure auction in 2005 and said Tuesday he had no involvement with the farm other than owning it. It had previously been owned by his cousins.

“I bought it because my cousins were getting thrown out on their asses by the federal government,” Duga said.

He said he learned of the alleged cockfighting operation through the news media.

“No good deed goes unpunished,” Duga said, when asked his reaction to the news.

Duga said Richard Adams was the current farm manager. Reached this weekend by phone, Adams, who is identified on his Facebook page as the owner of Ravenwold Greenhouses, told the Gazette there was no fighting on the farm.

“It was nothing I had anything to do with … It was a rented spot they had,” he said of those responsible for the birds seized by authorities. “I cannot go into a rented spot without permission … It’s all up to the police and animal control and the MSCPA.”

Neither police nor Adams have released the names of the people who were renting the space where the birds were held.

With the help of the MSPCA the birds were taken from the farm to the Methuen farm where they are under lock and key and monitored by police. It took two days for MSPCA to remove all the hens and roosters from the farm because the organization needed to clear space for the new arrivals as well as gather enough cages and temporary cardboard carriers, said MSPCA spokesman Rob Halpin. MSPCA does not have a truck that could handle all 400 cages at once.

Several other organizations assisted in the removal of the birds with equipment and staff, including the New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, the Dakin Humane Society, Animal Rescue League of Bedford, New Hampshire, and Lowell Humane Society. The arrival of the birds has caused the MSPCA to close its farm’s barn to public access for at least this week.

“These birds are aggressive and must be housed separately to keep them from attacking each other,” Keiley, of the MSPCA-Nevins Farm, said in a statement Tuesday. “Cockfighting is an extremely cruel blood sport and we condemn the callous disregard for life shown by those responsible for raising these birds to fight.

“The kindest thing we can do for the vast majority of these birds is to humanely euthanize them. The roosters cannot be rehabilitated—all we can do now is spare them the brutal and bloody fate that awaits them in the ring,” Keiley said in the statement.

About 150 of the birds are hens and chicks which the MSPCA said it is eager to try and save through sanctuary or adoptive home options.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.