Three men accused of being involved in a cockfighting operation after more than 200 roosters were seized earlier this year in Los Osos and Morro Bay have pleaded no contest to several charges and will pay thousands of dollars in fines.
Emilio Ingan, 73, pleaded no contest to felony animal cruelty and to felony possession of an assault weapon, which had been found during the search of his home, according to the county District Attorney’s Office.
In addition, his son, Elmer Ingan, 38, and tenant Henry Ramiscal, 58, pleaded no contest to felony animal cruelty and misdemeanor possession of roosters for fighting.
Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 10.
The men had initially pleaded not guilty to the charges earlier this year, several months after the Sheriff’s Office had received a tip from a resident who believed the birds were being raised for fighting.
The men will not serve jail time as part of an agreement reached this past week. Instead, they will collectively pay $14,350 in fines.
The fines are large in an effort to take financial incentive away from the sport of cockfighting, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Some of the money will be used to euthanize the roosters, most of which were being cared for by the Ingans so that the county wouldn’t have to pay to house them, said their attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu.
Funke-Bilu said he was grateful that none of his clients received jail time but took issue with the way the birds would be euthanized by lethal injection.
“We didn’t think putting drugs into their system at $20 a head and watching them slowly die was the way to go,” he said. “They’ve been taking care of these birds for more than six months now.”
At the crime scene, authorities reported finding spurs, dummy birds, medication commonly used in post-fight treatment of birds, and several roosters that appeared to have been “stitched back together again, but not professionally done,” sheriff’s Cmdr. Aaron Nix said at the time.
The birds are to be put down by county Animal Services because of the improper care and treatment the animals received, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Emilio Ingan won’t be able to own any animals for 10 years; Elmer Ingan and Ramiscal can’t have any for five years. An agreement makes exceptions for family dogs, a pony and a macaw.
Emilio Ingan had a previous no-contest conviction in San Luis Obispo County in 2007 on a misdemeanor charge of raising roosters for the purpose of fighting.
In the latest case, authorities found 218 birds at two locations in Los Osos and rural Morro Bay, as well as other items they believe could be used during cockfights or for training the birds to fight.
A number of birds were found in separate cages on a 124-acre crop field in the 1100 block of Atascadero Road in Morro Bay. A large pen was also located there, which officials believe was used as a training ring for the birds.
Other roosters were recovered from a residence in the 1500 block of 16th Street in Los Osos, near Paso Robles Avenue, where an illegal assault weapon, a TEC-9 firearm, was also seized.