The Austin Animal Center will put 26 roosters rescued from a cockfighting ring up for adoption starting March 8.
The birds were discovered after a call was made to the Travis County Sheriff's Office citing animal cruelty concerns. Officers were dispatched to a residence in Webberville, Texas, where many roosters lay dead, or injured.
“It’s not something we encounter all the time, mostly because it is so secretive,” said Roger Wade, a Travis County sheriff’s senior public information officer.
The owner of the property, Epifanio Cenobia Contreras, 43, was arrested on Feb. 14 and charged with a Class A misdemeanor for cruelty to animals.
Kristen Auerbach, deputy chief animal services officer, said some roosters were euthanized, while others received medical attention. Now in the custody of the Austin Animal Center, the remaining roosters are ready for adoption.
“These birds have had a terrible life, and we are excited at the opportunity to give them a brighter future,” Auerbach said. “One of my favorite parts of this experience is when we get to bring the birds out into the sun. When they feel it on their backs you can see the look of happiness on their face — one even fell asleep because they were so relaxed.”
The roosters will be available for adoption to any willing party.
“They reach out for affection and are happy to be held,” Auerbach said. “They are often misunderstood, but they are like every other animal and are just as worthy of living with a family that loves them.”
The city’s municipal shelter will provide anti-crowing collars, resources and care information, according to Auerbach.
“They are going to need rehabilitation, they’ve been treated very poorly and kept in small cages,” Auerbach said. “They have only seen other animals when they were expected to fight them. If someone adopts them and it doesn’t work out we [will] allow them to bring them back and we will try again.”
Keeping roosters as pets is not uncommon in other countries, Animal Protection supervisor Mark Sloat said.
“Roosters do well being single-pet animals,” Sloat said. “I’ve known one owner whose rooster would sit with him while he drank coffee.”
Most places in the country would have euthanized them, Sloat said.
“It’s driven by the public’s concern for animals and the no-kill philosophy,” Sloat said. “We really need the public’s help with this — we want to save all that we can.”