AVON, Ind. (WTHR) - Indiana's gaming commission raided two alleged cockfighting operations in two different counties Wednesday. One of them is the biggest they've ever found in Indiana.
Authorities say 150 birds were found behind the privacy fences of an Avon home in Hendricks County. More than 600 birds were seized from the property surrounding a small home on the edge of the small community of Waveland in Montgomery County.
The 750 birds, the majority of them roosters, are evidence of cockfighting operations that, according to investigators, bred, trained and prepared the animals to fight to the death for gambling spectators.
"This is serious, really serious," said Kathryn Destreza of the ASPCA.
The American Society for the Prevention of the Cruelty of Animals helped undercover gaming commission investigators examine the birds and gather other evidence.
"Gaffs, knives, implements they attach to the legs for fighting. Different medications and supplements to enhance the bird's performance," Destreza said, describing what investigators found.
The criminal investigation began six months ago with an anonymous tip. Investigators say birds were raised and trained at the Avon home. At the Waveland home, they found a breeding operation as well as a cockfighting pit.
According to investigators, the illegal sport is typically connected to other criminal enterprises.
"We have the animal fighting. We have cruelty to the animals. Lots of time, we have illegal gambling. Lots of time there is drug trafficking that goes along with it," explained Rob Townsend of the Gaming Commission.
In Avon, neighbors who didn't want to talk on camera admitted they were shocked by the raid and had no idea of the alleged criminal activity.
Raids like these are becoming more common. Since 2016, the Indiana Gaming Commission said it has has opened 26 animal fighting investigations, most involving roosters, resulting in 36 felony charges.
Investigators don't believe the numbers are a sign of a problem.
"The publicity of that success and just more awareness," Townsend said, "I don't believe that it is something that's not always been here. We are becoming more aware of it."
Investigators questioned two men. As of late Wednesday, they had not made any arrests. They confiscated records and cell phones, hoping they contain cues to the extent of the operation.
The ASPCA is sheltering the birds. Unfortunately, the organization says in many instances like this, the animals are too aggressive or diseased to save and must be destroyed.