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'Operation Angry Birds' Busts New York Cockfighting Ring, Prosecutor Says

<p>More than 70 people were apprehended and upwards of 3,000 birds rescued Sunday, New York's attorney general said.</p>
Image: A chicken at the site of a cockfighting raid in upstate New York.
A chicken at the site of a cockfighting raid in upstate New York.ASPCA

More than 70 people were taken into custody and upwards of 3,000 birds rescued Sunday after investigators cracked down on a savage cockfighting ring that stretched from an underground rooster coop in Brooklyn to a breeding farm upstate, officials said.

Nine people were arrested on felony charges amid "Operation Angry Birds" — the largest cockfighting crackdown in state history, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

"Cockfighting is a cruel, abusive and barbaric practice that tortures animals, endangers the health and safety of the public and is known to facilitate other crimes," Schneiderman said.

ASPCA workers at the scene of a cockfighting raid in upstate New York.ASPCA

State investigators and other officials said they carried out three dramatic raids as late Saturday turned to early Sunday. They busted a bloody cockfighting event in Queens, rounding up 65 fighting birds and 70 people — including bettors and spectactors — and charging six of them with felony prohibition of animal fighting, Schneiderman said.

At the same time, investigators arrested the 74-year-old proprietor of a Brooklyn pet shop where officials said roosters were stuffed inside metal cages showing "all the physical hallmarks of having been bred, trained and altered for fighting."

And early Sunday, investigators and other officials raided a farm in upstate Plattekill, N.Y., recovering as many as 3,000 birds and arresting a farm manager and a farm hand, Schneiderman said.

Cockfighting is a crime across the country.