RUSK COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – The roosters seized in the bust of a Rusk County cockfighting ring had to be euthanized after testing positive for a deadly disease.

According to Animal Investigation & Response, which took the birds and tested for diseases, the birds tested positive for a highly contagious disease that has no viable treatment and a near 70% fatality rate.

“It is a gruesome death,” AIR said in a Facebook post.

The disease is known as infectious laryngotracheitis, or ILT. It is a herpesvirus infection of poultry characterized by labored breathing, coughing, a rattling sound in the lungs, coughing up blood, eye infection and more.

Cause of death in these cases is normally suffocation.

“While devastated by this news, our team continued the high level of care for the birds in their last days and stayed to assure a humane hand over of custody to the state,” AIR said.

The Rusk County Sheriff’s Office handed the roosters over to animal organizations to be rehabilitated and adopted. When they tested positive for ILT, those plans changed.

AIR said that these results are the consequences of actions by criminals.

“The criminal neglect and cruelty, the dangerous and inhumane practices of blood sports – placed the lives of the Rusky Roos in a no win situation,” AIR said.

Around 125 animals were taken after the fighting ring was discovered, and most roosters were seriously injured or malnourished when they were first recovered.

The ring was busted on the Fourth of July after two phone calls were made to 911 by witnesses who saw people watching rooster fights. It was the second cockfighting ring busted in Rusk County over the span od several weeks. Deputies also seized nine vehicles and an undisclosed amount of money at the property.

Rusk County Sheriff Johnwayne Valdez’s department searched the vehicles at the property and found “fighting boxes” that contained blades and other instruments used during the rooster fights.

Sheriff Johnwayne Valdez holds a box containing blades used in cockfighting matches.

Every rooster was worth $5,000, and people could make $15,000 from one match, said the sheriff’s office.

13 people were arrested in the cockfighting bust and they include:

  • 70-year-old George Henly
  • 48-year-old Jose Luis Hernandez
  • 42-year-old Juan Hernandez
  • 35-year-old Rodrigo Hernandez
  • 55-year-old Luis Juarez
  • 50-year-old Francisco Fernandez Moreno
  • 45-year-old Moses Payan
  • 19-year-old Ruben Ramos Perales Jr.
  • 49-year-old Ruben Ramos Perales Sr.
  • 41-year-old Jose Olvera Rodriguez
  • 34-year-old Jose Francisco Sanchez

23 others also were given tickets for being spectators to the fights. Valdez said that people came all the way from Dallas, Houston, and even San Antonio to participate in the ring.