Men wanted for allegedly transporting cockfighting roosters through Western Slope
SILVERTHORNE — Arrest warrants have been issued for the four men caught transporting roosters across state lines and through Summit County earlier this year, alleging the birds were raised for cockfighting.
Cody Lance Smith, 28, of Kentucky; Kenneth D. Dotson, 29, of Kentucky; Austin Clanton, 26, of Tennessee; and Jose Saltos Jr., 42, whose residence is unverified, have been charged with felony animal fighting and misdemeanor cruelty to animals after a Colorado State Patrol investigation determined the men were transporting cockfighting roosters.
On May 15, three men were pulled over by State Patrol along Interstate 70 near Silverthorne due to driving with unreadable temporary tags on their truck. State Patrol troopers discovered something suspicious almost immediately.
The men had packed 33 roosters inside the truck in homemade wooden boxes measuring 7 inches in width and height and 14 inches long. The boxes were stacked on top of each other, and there was no food or water for the birds in the vehicle, according to the affidavit in support of an arrest warrant. State Patrol troopers also noted that the truck’s trunk was covered in the roosters’ feces and urine, and they called the stench “overwhelming.”
According to the affidavit, three of the men — Smith, Dotson and Clanton — said they were transporting the birds and the truck to California to their friend, later identified as Saltos.
The birds were taken into the care of Summit County Animal Control and Shelter, where the animals were examined. The birds were looked over by a veterinarian and put in individual kennels with water and food. Upon further inspection, some of the boxes in which the roosters arrived had blood on them. The animal shelter also told troopers that 17 of the roosters had clipped or missing spurs — a defensive claw-like growth.
State Patrol officers reached out to representatives with Colorado State University and state agencies who said the cut spurs on the birds were consistent with fighting roosters and that the transportation of the birds was uncommon and inhumane.
Investigators with State Patrol claimed the men gave inconsistent accounts of who owned the birds and whether they were getting paid to transport the vehicle to Saltos. According to the affidavit, all parties denied owning the birds during the initial stop, though Smith later tried to claim ownership to get the birds back. The document also states that Smith threatened legal action against the animal shelter.
John Cogorno, an attorney named in the report, told investigators he was representing Saltos and Dotson. Corgorno’s office did not immediately return calls or an email for comment.
The men have been charged with animal fighting, a class 5 felony, and misdemeanor cruelty to animals. The felony charge is punishable by up to three years in prison. Once arrested, the men will be able to post a $5,000 bond set by Judge Edward Casias, according to a news release.
“Cockfighting is a very brutal sport that is outlawed in every state,” District Attorney Bruce Brown said in a statement. “Animals rely on us for their daily care and are not to be used as instruments of death for sports-betting pleasure.”
The District Attorney’s Office said there was no direct information tying the accused to any actual cockfights, though possession or transportation of roosters knowing they will engage in fighting is considered criminal conduct. According to the Colorado Revised Statutes (18-9-204), no person can encourage a fight between two animals, determined by if an individual “owns, trains, transports, possesses, breeds, sells, transfers, or equips an animal with the intent that such animal will be engaged in a fight.”
The Summit County Animal Shelter officials initially were hopeful the birds could be adopted out or re-homed to other shelters, but they ultimately decided against the move based on the recommendation of the state veterinarians office and experts with Colorado State University.
Dr. Keith Roehr, the state’s veterinarian with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, said cases involving game birds often deal with fighting, and he noted the birds presented an “elevated risk” of a variety of avian diseases that made it impossible to place them with bird rescues or into other facilities around the state.
The Summit County Animal Shelter cared for the roosters for about three weeks. On June 4, the birds were euthanized and tested for avian diseases under the supervision of a veterinarian from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services.