Holyoke man pleads guilty to animal cruelty charges in 2018 cockfighting ring bust


File Photo: Northampton District Court (Mass.gov)

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – A Holyoke man has pled guilty to two federal charges after an investigation in May 2018 by the Northampton Police Department.

According to Northwestern DA Spokesperson Mary Carey, 59-year-old Miguel Rodriguez of Holyoke pled guilty to owning, possessing and training animals for fighting along with an animal cruelty charge Thursday in Northampton District Court.

Back in May of 2018, police discovered roosters were being raised for fighting at Ravenwold Greenhouses in Florence. The investigation also discovered the roosters were being mistreated. No evidence shows that the owners of Ravenwold Greenhouses were involved.

Rodriguez and two other suspects, Salvador Cruz and John Mercado, were charged for their involvement in the illegal fighting.

In court on Thursday, Rodriguez admitted to his involvement and pled guilty to both charges. He was sentenced to two years of probation and the first six months must be served under home confinement. He will be equipped with a GPS monitoring device.

Rodriguez is required to not possess any animals or animal fighting paraphernalia, paraphernalia of pet ownership, 100 hours of community service, and a stay away order from Ravenwood Greenhouses. 

The other suspects, Cruz and Mercado, are due back in court on February 26. Both have pleaded not guilty.

A statement was sent to 22News from the Animal Wellness Action:

“It’s shameful to see cockfighters in Massachusetts are merely given a slap on the wrist and probation for crimes related to perpetuating this horrific blood-sport that continues to plague the U.S. Cockfighting remains a high-risk breeding ground for the next COVID-19 type pandemic as gamecocks utilized in this illegal practice are frequently shipped around the globe and carry highly transmissible plagues such as Newcastle Disease and Avian Influenza.

“The U.S. Dept. of Justice should intervene and take serious action against Rodriguez and his cohorts engaged in this criminal activity and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the federal law.”  

Marty Irby, Executive Director at Animal Wellness Action

The Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C. says Miguel Rodriguez mistreated 400 roosters used in cockfighting. The organization launched an effort to pass the federal Animal Cruelty Enforcement (ACE) Act just introduced in Congress that would create an official Animal Cruelty Crimes Unit at the U.S. Dept. of Justice to better enforce existing federal animal cruelty laws.

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