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Community Involvement Helps Officials Uncover Cockfighting Activity in Des Moines

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  With just one description from Josh Colvin, the Director of Animal Control Services at the Animal Rescue League, it is easy to see why Iowa law bans cockfighting.

"You've got people that put knives on animals so they can see the brutality of cutting up other animals," he said.

Even in Iowa, some residents believe in participating in the activity that dates back several hundred years and remains legal in areas of Mexico and other countries.

Colvin said, "I understand, but it is illegal in 50 states so the U.S. is saying we are not going to tolerate it here."

A criminal complaint from late March shows Jose Barrios was arrested and charged with a felony count related to cockfighting.

"He was raising these birds to fight and training them to fight and sending them somewhere else," said Des Moines Police Sergeant Paul Parizek.

Barrios admitted to training the roosters to fight in Mexican derbies.

Parizek said, "We know these animals aren't born with the instinct to kill each other. That's something developed by nefarious humans, basically."

In early March, 104 roosters and hens were removed from Barrios' Des Moines home in the 2700 block of Hickman Road.

"It is a serious crime for good reason. We take the cruelty piece very seriously," said Parizek.

In July, Des Moines police and the ARL rescued 85 roosters in a similar cockfighting bust on Des Moines' east side. At the time, the ARL said it was the organization's first illegal animal fighting case in seven years.

"We've had a couple that have been back to back," said Colvin.

With two high-profile busts in less than a year, it is easy to see an increase in cockfighting in Des Moines, but officials also point to an increase in community involvement that has led to uncovering the criminal activity.

"Fortunately we've got some great neighbors in Des Moines who, as simple as it seems, like 100 roosters would get your attention in some areas, it doesn't.  They let us know, we were able to investigate it and file charges," said Parizek.

The animals were taken in by the Animal Rescue League. Barrios' preliminary hearing has been scheduled for April 13th.