Four people have been charged with animal cruelty after authorities broke up a cockfight near Hinckley.
The incident occurred in late December of 2018 when two Pine County sheriff's deputies were responding to a report of suspicious activity at an abandoned property along Highway 48.
The first deputy, Deputy Workman, to respond to the property found twelve cars in the field. The deputy also noted that the property had an abandoned house and old weathered barn.
When Deputy Munson arrived, he saw that there was a paper plate affixed under the sign label "private drive." The plate had the word "QAIB" written on it. According to the criminal complaint, "QAIB" is the Hmong word for cock, chicken, or rooster. It is often used in the context of cockfighting.
Deputy Munson, who had responded to the property previously for suspicious activity, noticed that a section of the barn that had once been open was now sealed. The deputy asked the people standing around the barn what was going on but no one would answer him.
A man who was identified as the one in charge of the event appeared in a doorway and explained to the deputy that he was having a family and friends gathering and camp out. The man was identified as Kenny Lance Vang.
Vang told Deputy Munson he was also there to fix up the barn for his brother who had bought the property. When Deputy Munson asked to speak with the man's brother, the man told him that he was at work.
Mille Lacs Tribal Police Officer Tyler Rosnau also arrived on scene. When Officer Rosnau approached the barn he noted that he heard the sound of roosters crowing and the voices of people inside the barn. The officer asked Vang how many people were in the barn, and he told Officer Rosnau there were about ten people in the building.
Deputy Munson contacted dispatch who told him that the owners of the property were Jeffery and Kathleen Thao. Dispatch then contacted Kathleen Thao who told them that no one was supposed to be on the property. Thao said that she would like deputies to search her property. She also said that she had never heard of anyone named Kenny Vang before.
Deputies observed 30 to 40 people inside the barn when they entered.
During a protective sweep of the barn, a Deputy Anderson located a man who said that he was at the property for the rooster fights.
Deputies observed eight boxes that each contained a rooster for fighting. Law enforcement also observed equipment and implements used in cockfighting such as razor blades, black thread, replacement spurs, medical supplies, and what appeared to be a medical station.
Animal Human Agent Ashley Pudas confirmed that the equipment found is consistent with cockfighting.
A sweep done of the vehicles on the property revealed more animal carriers with roosters in them, medical supplies, and razor blades with hooks on them. These razor blades are attached to the bird's feet to be used in fighting.
All together eleven roosters were seized by authorities.
Dr. Graham Brayshaw of the Animal Humane Society Veterinary Services examined the birds. In his report, Dr. Brayshaw stated that the breed of birds aligns with those used in cockfighting. The roosters also had their feathers plucked along their keel (chest bone) and along the bird's back. They were also missing their natural spurs which were removed so artificial spurs could be attached.
In his examination, Dr. Brayshaw said, "These are not normal signs that you will see in a rooster naturally. Once again, the consistency of these signs amongst the entire population shows that this was intentionally done by the owners."
Kenny Lance Vang, Khanthee Thao, Mai Tao, and Tou Vang Yang were all charged with felony Cruelty to Animals - Fights - Use, Train, or Possess Animals for Purpose. The charge carries a maximum five-year sentence and/or a $10,000 fine.
The photo is curtesy of the Pine County District Attorney's Office.