Two people in Atlantic County are facing animal cruelty charges after authorities allegedly discovered "dozens of roosters trained to fight" and "multiple dead birds in varying stages of decay."

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Last week, 81-year-old Sigfredo Perez of Newtonville and 49-year-old Queli Merlo of Hammonton were arrested and charged with third-degree
owning/training live animals for the purpose of fighting offenses.

According to the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office, those charges stem from an investigation of an anonymous tip about a home in Buena that was alleged to have been housing birds used for fighting.

  • A search of the property yielded dozens of roosters trained to fight as well as equipment used to train the roosters to fight.
  • Over 100 other birds were found to be living in unsanitary conditions on the property.
  • The birds are currently under quarantine in accordance with state law pending the outcome of disease testing.
  • Multiple dead birds in varying stages of decay were also found on the property.

Detectives also seized two dogs, five rabbits, and several cats that were reported to be living in unsanitary conditions and in need of medical treatment.

The Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office initiated and led the investigation with assistance from the New Jersey State Police, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, and Buena Borough Animal Control.

The public is reminded that charges are accusations and all persons are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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