By MARGIE NETZEL - firstname.lastname@example.org
KINGSVILLE TOWNSHIP —
Everything Tammy Dondorfer knows about chickens fits in a bucket.
Dondorfer, who serves as the Ashtabula County Animal Protective League animal advocate, will get an education in the care and feeding of hens and roosters this week as she and the shelter’s employees care for 19 birds seized from an alleged cock-fighting rink in a Saybrook Township trailer park on Tuesday morning.
Dondorfer said taking in the birds was important to her in the fight against animal cruelty in Ashtabula County.
“In my opinion, animal cruelty is rampant in Ashtabula County,” she said. “Rampant.”
All 19 chickens and roosters will go to the Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary in Ravenna for rehabilitation and possible placement. The sanctuary, which houses all types of abused, neglected and abandoned farm animals, is run by Annette Fisher, who has become a reluctant expert in cock fighting.
“What we have found is that law enforcement and humane societies are not set up to handle birds that come from cock fighting situations,” she said. “So, all too often, the answer is to destroy the animals for lack of a better solution.”
Ashtabula County Dog Warden Donna Yan said she doesn’t see a lot of cock fighting in the county, but she hears the rumors.
“Just because we don’t see it every day doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen,” she said. “And knowing about it and catching someone in the act are two different things. Rings like this are set up for easy tear down and transport. Suspects are often long gone by the time anyone gets there.”
Fisher said cock fighting “is in every single county in Ohio.”
The birds at the APL are in various stages of injury and healing. One has a cloudy eye, another needs antibiotics. Cardboard obstructs the view of the most aggressive birds so they don’t fight through their cages. Some are shaved or “plucked” strategically — others don’t have “combs” or “waddles” — the red fleshy parts on the face and chin.
“They are shaved because it is a blood sport,” Fisher said. “They can get at each other’s organs fast that way. Cock fighters cut those off the waddles and combs with scissors or razors. They take off the ‘spurs’ on the roosters’ legs and fit them with a metal band and razor blade called a gaffe because chickens don’t fight beak first, they come at each other feet first and that is how they cut each other in the fight. They fight to the death.”
Fisher said she is glad to see the Ashtabula County deputies take action on behalf of the 19 Saybrook Township birds.
“We have trouble getting Ohio judges and people who hear about cock fighting to take it seriously,” she said. “The truth of the matter is that cock fighting is almost always tied to other things — illegal gambling, illegal firearms use, drugs — every crime you can think of is usually tied to cock fighting.”
Local veterinarian Becky Salinger will transport the birds to Ravenna for placement. She hopes to take a bevy of supplies with her to help defray the cost of keeping the animals.
“If people want to help they can donate to Happy Trails,” Salinger said, “so if people want to drop off donations of chicken feed (layer crumbles or pellets), cracked corn or scratch, or bagged shavings, that would really help.”
The items can be dropped off at the Austinburg Veterinary Clinic through Thursday evening.
For more information on Happy Trails Farm, visit www.happytrailsfarm.org.