Cockfighting operation in Mullica Township shut down, property owner arrested
FUENTE: PRESS OF ATLANTIC CITY (IR A ESTE ENLACE ORIGINAL PARA LAS FOTOS Y EL VIDEO)
By LEE PROCIDA Staff Writer |
With video of roosters and interview with the sheriff
MULLICA TOWNSHIP — Police believe they uncovered an illegal cockfighting operation Thursday morning at a Reading Avenue home where dozens of roosters were found bearing signs they were used in the bloody sport.
Police arrested Angel Gradiz, 51, and charged him with operating an animal fighting facility after two Atlantic County Sheriff’s Department officers discovered the birds behind his secluded home on the eastern end of the rural road that runs parallel to Route 30.
The officers, who were at the house at about 10:15 a.m. to serve an unrelated arrest warrant for a man who they thought lived there, found about 70 chickens, many missing facial features that are commonly removed in preparation for fighting.
Most of the birds were kept in individual small, cylindrical wire cages in a clearing in the woods behind the one-story house that had garbage littered all over the front, side and rear yards. Their constant crowing could be heard from the street and several nearby homes.
Mullica Township police, Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles and representatives from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals responded to the scene.
Gradiz was working at the Tropicana at the time of the discovery, but police contacted him and he returned to his home, where he was then cuffed and transported to Mullica police headquarters for questioning. He was later taken to Atlantic County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Balles said the detectives who found the operation, Phil Gaffney and Michael Gilmore, are trained to recognize such a facility.
Besides the roosters’ housing and their lack of facial wattles and combs, there were materials that could be used to assemble a fighting ring and a coop filled with hens that officials said were used for breeding.
Most of the few neighbors on the street were not at home Thursday morning. Al Schwartz, 47, was mowing his lawn about a hundred yards down the street.
“I’ve heard roosters in the morning,” he said, “but I didn’t realize that was going on.”
Karen Davis, president of the Northampton County, Va.-based organization United Poultry Concerns, looked at pictures taken by The Press of Atlantic City and said the roosters resembled common backyard varieties, rather than gamefowl that are specifically bred for fighting.
She said chicken farmers in rural areas sometimes sell excess roosters to cock-fighting operations. The roosters fight in front of people who bet on the outcome.
“These cockfighters want these birds to peck each others eyes out,” Davis said. “It’s a violent subculture.”
In the late afternoon, Atlantic County SPCA President Nancy Beall returned to the scene after getting an affidavit from Municipal Court Judge Henry Broome to euthanize the birds.
“You have to do it because you can’t do anything with them,” she said as she rattled the cages, looking for access to stick the chickens with a clear syringe filled with a lethal solution.
Beall said she was not surprised by the operation, calling it “absolutely par for the course around here.”
The SPCA levies civil charges against people who commit cruelty to animals offenses in addition to criminal charges. Beall said the organization would likely be seeking about 45 third-degree offenses against Gradiz, one for each fighting rooster.
New Jersey statues say its illegal to “permit the fighting or baiting of a living animal or creature,” and a violation can result in a fine of between $3,000 and $5,000.
Claudine Tardiff, a volunteer with the SPCA, helped Beall and provided water to the hens in the coops. She said she did not know what would be done with them.
Contact Lee Procida: