This is the residence in Gilman Township, rural Spring Valley, WI where the drug bust and resulting animal cruelty is alleged to have occurred and arrests were made. Photo by Paul J. Seeling
This is the residence in Gilman Township, rural Spring Valley, WI where the drug bust and resulting animal cruelty is alleged to have occurred and arrests were made. Photo by Paul J. Seeling

TOWN OF GILMAN, WI – On the morning of Thursday, September 6, Gateway News received two press releases from Pierce County Sheriff Nancy Hove describing an incident that occurred at N7789 County Road BB in Gilman Township (rural Spring Valley), Wisconsin. The incident began as a Federal drug bust with the arrest of a male and female. The arrests led to a search warrant to recover illegal drugs – with that it was discovered there was an illegal dog and cock fighting operations on the site.

In the words of American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) field officer V.P. Tim Rickey stated to this Gateway News reporter on site, “The conditions found here are unacceptable, filthy and unsanitary.”

The first release from Sheriff Hove stated: “On Thursday, August 30, 2018 at 1115 hours (11:15 a.m.) the U.S. Marshall Service executed an arrest warrant on Houa Dia Yang at N7789 CTH BB, Spring Valley, WI, Pierce County. During the course of the arrest, agents with the U.S. Marshall Service observed illegal narcotics in the residence. Pierce County Sheriff’s Department obtained a search warrant for the residence to recover the illegal narcotics. Investigators searched the residence and recovered an indoor marijuana grow, about a pound of dried marijuana, and a safe containing approximately four pounds of methamphetamine. A female named Senyen Vang also resided at the residence, and was taken into custody.

That first release from Sheriff Hove continued and concluded: An illegal cock fighting and dog fighting operation was also discovered with the animal abuse investigation.

This incident is currently under investigations at this time. Pierce County Sheriff’s Office.”

That release was followed at the same time with the following joint release from the ASPCA and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office: “ASPCA Assists Pierce County Sheriff’s Office in Seizing  More than 1,300 Animals in Wisconsin Cruelty Case

‘Dogs, birds transported to ASPCA emergency shelters to receive care and treatment’.

At the request of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, the ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is assisting with evidence collection and the removal of more than 1,300 animals from a property believed to be associated with dogfighting and cockfighting in Gilman Township, Wis. The animals, including chickens and more than a dozen dogs allegedly bred for animal fighting, are being transported by the ASPCA to undisclosed emergency shelters to receive care and treatment. The ASPCA is also assisting with subject matter expertise and veterinary forensic exams.

A search warrant was executed August 30 by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office where officials discovered the animals living in deplorable conditions throughout the property. Some dogs were found tied to heavy chains and appeared to exhibit scars and injuries associated with dogfighting, while roosters were found with physical alterations commonly associated with cockfighting. Dogfighting and cockfighting paraphernalia were also discovered on the property.

"This is the second large-scale animal cruelty case we have encountered in the past two years,” said Sheriff Nancy Hove with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office. “When we are made aware of any animal cruelty issues, we do the best we can to investigate and hold those responsible accountable for the suffering they’ve caused these animals."

 “Animal fighting is an inhumane practice that is unfortunately common throughout the country,” said Tim Rickey, Vice President of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response. “The ASPCA is pleased to be in a position where we can provide resources and expertise to assist local authorities with their investigation.”

The animals are being transported to temporary shelters established by the ASPCA, where they will be cared for by veterinary and behavior experts until custody is determined by the court. The ASPCA’s Legal Advocacy department will work closely with law enforcement and prosecutors to ensure the best outcome for these animals.

In Wisconsin, engaging in animal fighting, which includes possession of dogs or roosters for the purpose of fighting, is a Class I felony for first offenders, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to 3.5 years.  A second offense is a class H felony and is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to 6 years.  For more information about animal fighting, visit aspca.org/animal-cruelty.

This reporter went to the site and witnessed the ASPCA wrapping up their week-long operations at N7789 County Road BB in Gilman Township. Also on the site this afternoon (9-6-18) were Twin Cities TV video photojournalists Joe Berglove/WCCO-CBS and David Peterlinz/KARE 11-NBC and an accompanying reporter interviewing the ASPCA field staff and witnessed two ASPCA large trucks being loaded with crates of baby chicks and chickens for removal to shelter for care.

The KARE 11 team interviewed ASPCA field staffer Jessica Rushin who stated that she was not shocked by what the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team saw as we see this far too often.

In an exclusive 15 minute interview with Gateway News, Tim Rickey, Vice President of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response who has been on the Gilman site since a week ago last Thursday, shared these observations with this reporter, “The situation here is of an alleged dog and cock fighting operation. We were in St. Croix County on a cock fighting case a couple of years ago.”

Rickey didn’t believe this case and that one are related at all. He continued, “Obviously, this isn’t unusual in this part of the country or any part of the country as this is a very lucrative illegal activity.”

He reported that with a lot of money involved it is an important thing for people to know that if they suspect something they should call the authorities about it.

“A fighting operation is brutal, and their call could be the difference for the fate of hundreds or thousands of animals,” Rickey stated.

He reiterated that point, “If someone knows or suspects that a fighting operation is taking place in their neighborhood they should call the authorities like the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.”

He is grateful that they in turn call the ASPCA that is based out of New York, but the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response teams work all over the country.

Rickey also reported that this large response and sheltering will be very costly running well over a $100,000.

After the animals have been cared for Rickey believes the PC Sheriff’s Dept. will petition for disposition of the of the animals with the goal to place them in caring homes.

He concluded that the initial count of 1,300 animals was low and the final number will be 1,700.

This is an ongoing investigation and Gateway News will provide more information as it becomes available.