This photo provided by the ASPCA shows "Operation Angry Birds" in the Queens borough of New York. Picture: ASPCA


New York - More than 3,000 birds were rescued in a cockfighting takedown in New York this weekend that resulted in nine arrests, NY authorities said.

In a statement Sunday night, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said it was the largest cockfighting takedown in New York state and among the largest in US history.

“Operation Angry Birds” simultaneously targeted locations in Queens, Brooklyn and Ulster County with assistance from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Ulster County Sheriff's office, 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.

At the cockfights, spectators were charged admission fees and an additional fee for a seat within the secret basement location that housed the all-night fights, authorities said. Spectators placed bets on the fights with individual wagers reaching $10 000.

In Queens, authorities raided a cockfighting bimonthly event where 70 people were taken into custody, including six arrested on felony prohibition of animal fighting charges. The ASPCA took control of 65 fighting birds, authorities said.

In Brooklyn, a pet shop was raided where 50 fighting birds were rescued from a basement. The pet shop's owner was arrested on a felony charge and cockfighting contraband, including artificial spurs and syringes used to inject performance enhancing drugs, were also found.

Authorities also raided a 90-acre farm in Plattekill, rescuing as many at 3 000 birds. The farm's owners charged rent to cockfighting enthusiasts from various other states.

In New York, cockfighting and possession of a fighting bird at a cockfighting location each carry a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a fine of up to $25 000, according to the attorney general's office.