Intensive SHARK, Humane Farming Association, & Animal Wellness Action pressure on law enforcement to crack down on cockfighting brings results
FELTON, Delaware; JEFFERSON, Louisiana; ELYRIA, Ohio––Cockfighting cases breaking in three states within a week’s time demonstrate the influence of pressure brought to bear on law enforcement in recent months by the combined efforts of Showing Animals Respect & Kindness [SHARK], the Humane Farming Association, and Animal Wellness Action.
Delaware authorities even explicitly credited SHARK drone flights for discovering a cockfight in progress at Felton, Delaware, on May 6, 2023, leading to the August 25, 2023 arrests of property owners Billy and Andrea Keen, 51 and 43, respectively.
Husband & wife face felony charges
Both Keens, who are husband and wife, were charged with a felony count each of possessing an animal for fighting. Andrea Keen was additionally charged with being present for animal fighting, a second felony, according to Delaware Animal Services. Both were released on bail.
Frustrated by eleven days of apparent inaction by the Delaware authorities after tipping them off to the cockfight, SHARK founder Steve Hindi and Animal Wellness Action president Wayne Pacelle held a May 17, 2023 Zoom media conference to share the drone video evidence.
Thirty to forty cars
The highly detailed drone video showed thirty to forty cars parked around a sheet-metal-clad barn on the property of Three Cedars Boarding Farm, an apparent racehorse breeding and training facility owned by the Keens that also accommodates a business called Three Cedars Pulse Therapy & Wellness.
Men, women, and teenagers were shown unloading live gamecocks from vehicles, preparing the gamecocks to fight, taking them inside, and bringing dead and dying gamecocks out of the building.
Some participants made clumsy efforts to kill injured roosters before tossing them into the scoop of a front-end loader. Others did not, with still living birds shown flapping their wings in the “dead” pile.
One lone Delaware Animal Services officer responded
Upon confirming the alleged cockfight in progress, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness called state and local law enforcement.
Eventually, Hindi said, “A single vehicle, with a single Delaware Animal Services officer, arrived at the property.”
“As the Delaware Animal Services officer approached the building housing the alleged cockfight, the drone video showed, dozens of people rushed out the back door, some of them carrying gamecocks, running toward their vehicles and speeding away.
“Some of them actually passed the Delaware Animal Services vehicle on their way off the premises. Others streamed out other exits.”
Who are the suspects?
Hindi had already identified the Keens as owners of the cockfighting location.
Andrea Aligo Keen, Hindi told the media conference, “has been employed by the Delaware Department of Education since January 2022 as an instructional support technician. She apparently works with children. Given the nature of the criminal activities on her property, this is very concerning.
“Prior to her job at the Department of Education,” Hindi said, “Mrs Keen worked at the Delaware Division of Public Health as a clinic manager. The Delaware Division of Health includes, ironically, Delaware Animal Services.”
Billy Keen was not at the cockfight
Andrea Aligo-Keen was tentatively identified from the SHARK video, speaking to the Delaware Animal Services officer who visited the property during the alleged cockfight.
“Andrea Keen’s husband is Billy Charles Keen, Jr.,” Hindi added. “He works for the State of Delaware as a Department of Transportation maintenance area supervisor. Mr. Keen was not at the illegal cockfight on May 6, 2023, as he was reportedly with his daughter at an equine event. Nevertheless, our information is that Mr. Keen is intimately involved in the illegal cockfighting operation,” Hindi told the May 17, 2023 Zoom media conference.
The most recently published Delaware state salaries for Andrea Aligo-Keen and Billy Charles Keen were $71,849 and $55,566 in 2022, respectively, for a combined income of $127,415.
20 roosters & 52 hens
Seven days prior to the charges being filed against the Keens, Captain Jason Rivarde of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office told media that Peter Pham, 41, had been booked for cruelty to animals and cockfighting, as result of an investigation that originated with a neglect complaint.
“Deputies assisting Jefferson Protection & Animal Welfare Services removed 20 roosters and 52 hens from Pham’s home,” along with 10 dead birds and a “decease livestock animal,” not more specifically identified, Rivarde told Michelle Hunter of NOLA.com.
“Some of the animals had multiple injuries, according to Rivarde,” wrote Hunter.
“Investigators also found evidence of illegal cockfighting, including spurs, boots, steroids and other medication common in the practice, according to authorities,” Hunter recounted, noting that Louisiana banned cockfighting in 2008, the last U.S. state to do so.
Bust in Lorain County, Ohio
Also seven days before the charges against the Keens were filed, reported Paul Kiska of WJW in Cleveland, Ohio, “Sixteen roosters were rescued during a cockfighting and animal cruelty investigation conducted by Lorain County humane officers.”
Said Friendship Animal Protection League spokesperson Shelby Dowdell, “The birds, along with other cockfighting related paraphernalia, were recovered from a property in [the city of] Lorain. They were taken to the Friendship Animal Protective League in Elyria, where the birds are getting medical treatment and temporary housing,” prior to transport to the Save the Gallos sanctuary in western Kentucky.
Dowdell told Kiska that the investigation began on July 28, 2023, and “is ongoing,” with criminal charges pending.
Showing Animals Respect & Kindness has done extensive drone surveillance of cockfights in southwestern Ohio, diagonally across the state from Lorain County.
Some participants in those cockfights are believed to have come from Lorain County, and some from farther away in the same direction, though the majority appear to have come from Appalachia, Oklahoma, and Texas.