Animal cruelty charges filed after possible rooster fighting ring found in Clearwater

Juan Gilberto Ortega

CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Sheriff’s detectives arrested a 49-year-old Clearwater man about 9 p.m. Jan. 17 at his residence in unincorporated Clearwater after finding what they believe is evidence of possible rooster fighting.

Juan Gilberto Ortega was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on one count of fighting or baiting animals and one count of felony cruelty to animals. Bail was set at $10,000. He was released on surety bond the next day.

According to detectives, deputies accompanied Pinellas County Animal Services on an investigation of a complaint of possible rooster ring fighting at a residence on Verona Avenue about 1:50 p.m. Jan. 17.

During that visit, deputies looking from the roadway reportedly saw several roosters, what appeared to be a fighting ring and multiple cages in the backyard of the residence.

At that time, they asked Ortega for permission to enter the property to conduct a welfare check on the roosters, but he said no.

Detectives then obtained a search warrant from the State Attorney’s Office, Sixth Judicial Circuit, and entered the property. Eleven roosters were seized and collected by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Detectives say all eleven roosters showed signs of being involved in fighting as their combs were cropped and their feathers were removed from the breasts. The roosters also appeared to have injuries to their waddles and combs. Multiple items used in rooster fighting were collected from the backyard to include a whip, training devices, clippers and syringes.

In addition, detectives say they discovered a detached garage on the property, which contained what appeared to be a marijuana grow operation. Detectives say they collected 20 marijuana plants from inside the garage. Additional charges regarding this grow operation are pending, detectives said.