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PSPCA names suspect in cockfighting bust; felony charges filed

By Jennifer Joas, Reporter, JJoas@wfmz.com
69 News, follow: @69news, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 08 2014 12:42:27 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 08 2014 05:04:43 PM CDT

The Pennsylvania SPCA has identified the man arrested in connection with a cockfighting ring that it busted in Berks County on Thursday.

PHILADELPHIA -

The Pennsylvania SPCA has identified the man arrested in connection with a cockfighting ring that it busted in Berks County on Thursday.

Jesus Rodriguez, 31, of Reading, has been charged with 10 felony counts of cruelty to animals for ownership of fighting roosters, officials said Friday.

Responding to a tip, the PSPCA responded to a large farm on Plum Road near Bernville to investigate suspected cockfighting.

"We saw situations including unsanitary confinement, as well as lack of veterinary care and lack of adequate sustenance," said Sarah Eremus, the PSPCA's communications and marketing manager.

Officers said they found cockfighting paraphernalia and hundreds of fighting birds, dozens of which were owned by Rodriguez.

Officers removed more than 100 birds and transported them to the PSPCA's headquarters in Philadelphia for evaluation.

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"Rodriguez and others need to know that cockfighting is a felony offense that will not be tolerated in Pennsylvania," said Jerry Buckley, the PSPCA's CEO. "The PSPCA is determined to end this and other brutal crimes to animals in the commonwealth.”

Officers also removed three dogs, a goat, and a horse based on animal cruelty violations involving unsanitary confinement, failure to provide veterinary care, and failure to provide adequate sustenance, officials said.

Area residents are also raising concerns because the farm has received $161,250 for agricultural preservation. The money is provided by the state and the county to ensure the land is used solely for agricultural purposes.

The executive director of Berks County Agricultural Land Preservation said it has done annual inspections of the property, but at no time did anyone see animal cruelty issues or cockfighting paraphernalia.

The investigation is ongoing, but Damon March, the director of the Humane Society of Berks County, said he is happy to hear about the bust.

"This type of crime, animal fighting, cockfighting and dog fighting, is associated with other types of crimes, drugs, weapons, etc., so it is always good to hear that something like this happened, not only for the animals, but also for the community," March said.

The PSPCA said more arrests could come.