Trio charged with having fighting birds on return trip from Kentucky

Page News and Courier

HARRISONBURG — Virginia State Police arrested three Shenandoah Valley men in Botetourt County last month in connection with an animal-fighting operation.

Cole McDaniel and Douglas McDaniel, both of Luray, and Brett Dearing, of Elkton, were charged with felony possession of animals for the purpose of animal fighting on Dec 21.

The three men were arrested after a state trooper stopped to help them, according to a search warrant obtained by the Roanoke Times.

The search warrant states the men’s truck broke down near mile marker 158 on Interstate 81. The trooper was waiting with them until roadside assistance showed up. While waiting, the trooper heard chicken noises coming from the truck, the newspaper reported.

The trooper asked the men why they had chickens, the document states, and one of the men admitted that they were returning from a cockfight in London, Ky.

The trooper then searched the truck and seized the animals, “a large amount of cash,” fighting schedules and equipment, according to the newspaper.

The trio are scheduled to appear in Botetourt County Circuit Court on Feb. 12 for arraignment.

Fighters Flee Virginia
Animal rights activists say Virginia residents have been traveling to other states since the late 2000s to fight birds.

Following a raid of Little Boxwood, a major cockfighting pit in Page County, legislators passed laws to make it tougher for animal fighters to operate in Virginia. The case led to the racketeering conviction of former Sheriff Daniel Presgraves.

“It was a landmark case,” said Janette Reever, deputy manager of animal fighting response for The Humane Society of the United States. “The laws were changed to make it illegal to own and possess the birds for fighting.”

Rather than facing a possible felony in Virginia, Reever said, cockfighters began traveling to states with weaker laws, including Kentucky.

“Those states become a magnet for these individuals,” she said.

In Kentucky, owning birds, equipment and watching fights is legal. The maximum penalty for fighting a bird is $500.

For animal fighters, she said, the chances of winning large sums of money is worth the risk of a fine.

“It’s a no-brainer for these types of people,” said Reever, who added that her organization has been lobbying state legislatures for tougher laws for years. “Kentucky has been one of our target states, not only with cockfighting but with dog fighting.”
Decline In The Valley
The last known active cockfighting operations in this area were Little Boxwood and a smaller operation near Naked Creek in eastern Rockingham County. Authorities shut down Little Boxwood in 2007, and the Naked Creek operation closed shortly thereafter.

Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson said he hasn’t seen any signs of cockfighting in the county since he took office about four years ago. If he did, he said, he’d put a stop to it immediately.

“We don’t want anything to do with it around here,” Hutcheson said.

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