NEW YORK--The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today announced that one of the defendants, William Roman, pled guilty to four felony counts of animal fighting and baiting charges stemming from one of the largest cockfighting cases in Florida's history, which took place in Lee County on September 7, 2010.
Mr. Roman was sentenced to six months in state prison, three years of probation, 100 hours of community service, and ordered to pay court costs and cost of prosecution. As part of the probation, Roman has been ordered to have no contact with animals for three years.
"Cockfighting is one of the most brutal forms of animal abuse and the ASPCA is pleased one of the defendants is taking responsibility for the pain and suffering he inflicted on these birds," said Adam Leath, the ASPCA's newly appointed Southeast director of the Field Investigations and Response team. Leath, who at the time was the lead investigator for the Lee County Domestic Animal Services, added, "These animals were exploited to breed and fight each other to the death, and we hope to continue our work in investigating these types of cases to rid the nation of this cruel sport."
On September 7, 2010, the ASPCA dispatched its Field Investigation and Response team to assist in the forensic evidence collection and removal of more than 650 fighting birds from two properties in Lee County under the request and authority of the Lee County Sheriff's Office and Lee County Domestic Animal Services. Staff from the University of Florida (Gainesville) College of Veterinary Medicine and Maples Center for Forensic Medicine at UF were also on hand to help collect evidence during the investigation.
Following the seizure of the birds, William Roman and Pedro Lopez, 39, were both arrested and charged with animal fighting and baiting, housing distressed animals, and animal cruelty. Lopez was also charged with drug possession. A trial date regarding charges against Lopez has not been scheduled at this time.
As organized animal fighting cases continue to increase throughout the United States, the ASPCA is being called to respond to more blood sports investigations than ever before. In late 2010, the ASPCA established its Blood Sports unit to train law enforcement and investigate organized blood sports across the country. The ASPCA hosts numerous workshops for law enforcement agents and animal welfare professionals, provides on-line training on recognizing and responding to dog fighting with the Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services, and has participated in several blood sport cases, including a dog fighting investigation in Halifax, Va. with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the United States Attorney's Office.
Leath added, "Animal fighting is often associated with other illegal crimes, including drugs, weapons, and gambling, and we hope people continue to report animal fighting incidents to protect animals and increase public safety."
In Florida, cockfighting--as well as the offenses of possession of birds, being a spectator at a cockfight, and possession of implements--are all third degree felonies, each punishable by up to five years in a state jail and a maximum $5,000 fine.
For more information on the ASPCA's efforts to tackle animal fighting, please visit www.aspca.org.