by: Greg Suskin Updated:CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, S.C. —
A tip to a sheriff's deputy in neighboring Marlboro County led Chesterfield County deputies to a large-scale cockfight.
"We surrounded them with SWAT and dogs, but some still managed to run away," Chesterfield County Chief Deputy Briana Davis said.
Deputies said the fight was going on off Pritchard Farm Road, outside McBee, in a rural, wooded area accessed only by dirt roads.
"We saw dead chickens and some injured ones," Davis said. "They couldn't move, but they were alive."
Deputies discovered 161 roosters Saturday, and 10 were already dead. They recovered spurs used in fighting, drugs and $12,000 in cash.
Some of the birds can be worth $5,000 to $10,000 or more to cockfighters.
Chesterfield County deputies sent pictures to Channel 9 showing a makeshift carport where the fighting was going on.
Most of the 46 people arrested were given citations to appear in court for the misdemeanor offense. Others were from out of state and were arrested and taken to jail.
Davis said Justin Pritchard was the ringleader. Deputies said the cockfighting was on his father's property.
Bill Pritchard and Jennifer Pritchard were also charged with animal fighting.
Deputies told Channel 9 that bloodsports like cockfights are usually organized by word of mouth and happen quickly.
The remaining 148 birds are being housed at an unmarked warehouse outside Cheraw.
A volunteer organization, The Carolina Water Fowl Rescue Group, is caring for the birds and they have brought in food, water and individual pens for each animal.
Director Jennifer Gordon said she's seen this kind of cruelty many times before.
"It’s hard to grasp that, as a human being, that other people get enjoyment out of this kind of thing," Gordon said.
She'd like to see the roosters adopted out to good homes, but with so many birds it's not likely.
She said her rescue in Charlotte may be able to take 10 but there isn't the funding or enough places to care for chickens, especially ones used to fight.
"They'll probably all be euthanized," she said. “These birds are not adoptable."
A veterinarian from Clemson University is expected on Tuesday to examine the birds and check their health.
Davis said she had not investigated a cockfight in Chesterfield County in years.
She said many of those arrested were familiar to deputies, with some having been involved in previous drug or theft cases.
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