Nearly 100 chickens, roosters, and chicks are now being cared for by the Animal Rescue League after an alleged cockfighting ring was busted.

Police have arrested 38-year-old Mariano Martinez Ramirez of Des Moines and charged him with felony animal contest. He's being held in the Polk County Jail on a $5,000 cash bond.

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Police say they found cages where chickens, roosters, and even chicks were being kept on Ramirez' property. Des Moines Police Sergeant Paul Parizek told WHO,

We did find that there are nearly 100 animals in the home, we did find some tools associated with cockfighting, they were definitely illegal to possess. They didn’t find a ring at that house so it’s likely that the actual fights are being held somewhere else. So as this investigation continues on, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if it expands to more arrests."

The Animal Rescue League (ARL) says this marks the first time in seven years that illegal animal fighting has been alleged in Iowa. Tom Colvin, executive director for the ARL, talked to WHO about cockfighting and animal fighting in general:

Animal fighting is a horrible, vicious crime where the animals suffer greatly at the hands of those involved. Because of this, many years ago, the ARL worked with lawmakers to elevate this level of animal cruelty to a felony. Unfortunately, it remains one of the few felony charges for animal crimes in our state."

Parizek of the Des Moines Police Department said it best when talking about the cockfighting ring: "It takes a special group of scumbags to run an operation like this." I couldn't agree more and know the police will find the others responsible for what appears to be heinous animal cruelty.

This, and a case in central Iowa just two weeks ago where a kitten was severely injured by fireworks, reminds me there should be other steep charges when it comes to cruelty to animals in our state.

[via WHO, WHOPolk County, Vinelink, and WHO]