SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) - Some roosters are evidence in a misdemeanor cockfighting case, but keeping them alive so they can be presented in court is costing taxpayers a small fortune. The total is more than $100,000 so far.
On Monday, a Santa Fe judge decided whether that's a necessary cost.
Prosecutors say the birds could be euthanized, frozen and then presented as evidence. The suspect, Raul Trinidad-Enriquez, contends they're just pets and he needs them alive in court to prove it.
The roosters were rescued last July from what authorities believe was a huge cockfighting ring in Santa Fe. They are now being housed at the Santa Fe animal shelter as evidence. It's a big inconvenience to the shelter that normally cares for household pets. Crews have had to build a special cages to house the poultry, provide designated care for the birds and even bring in a veterinarian used to caring for roosters.
"An invoice form the santa fe animal shelter that indicated for all 62 birds that were housed then in October of 2010 they were being housed at $15 a day and after 77 days it cost some $71,000 TO $72,000 dollars at that time," said prosecutor Ragina Ryanczak.
That's $15 dollars per bird. Now almost a year later there are eight roosters in custody. The rest of the animals were either adopted or died.
"Those are his animals, and he should have a right to keep them alive," said a defense attorney. The lawyer argues the birds are merely the suspect's pets. "These aren't inexpensive animals," he explained. "These type of birds, they range in price from $300 a piece to $1,500."
The lawyer also claims under a livestock law, the case should have gone to trial within 30 days of the bust and says that would have cut down on costs. Prosecutors argue the birds are trained fighters, so this isn't a livestock case, it's a criminal one.
"The roosters can't even see each other because they are too aggressive," said the Ryanczak.
The judge ruled the birds can stay alive for at least the next 30 days. That will cost around $3,600. The defense will have the birds examined and make their case again in a month to keep the roosters alive until the trial in January.
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