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The Aegis
Harford County

Baltimore County resident handed record sentence for connection to Harford County cockfighting operation, state’s attorney says

A Baltimore County man was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted this week on numerous counts of animal cruelty and cockfighting, the longest sentence ever handed down in such a case, according to the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office.

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Jose Luis Lopez-Villalba, 42, of Windsor Mill, was also sentenced Tuesday to three years of supervised probation, with an additional 114 years of incarceration should he violate that probation, the state’s attorney’s office said.

Lopez-Villalba pleaded guilty in Harford County Circuit Court to 20 counts of animal cruelty and 20 counts of possessing a bird for cockfighting.

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According to the state’s attorney’s office, Harford County Animal Control received a complaint May 10, 2021, about people engaging in cockfighting at 4366 Madonna Road in Street. When officers arrived, they inspected the property and found about 100 chickens, most of which were roosters.

Most of the roosters had been dubbed, meaning their comb, wattles and earlobes had been removed, which is common with roosters involved in cockfighting because it prevents injury to these body parts while the roosters are fighting, according to the state’s attorney’s office. Officers also found a fighting ring with a sparring puppet, or fake stuffed rooster, which is used to train the roosters to fight.

During the summer of 2021, investigators from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office watched the property and made visits to check on the well-being of the birds, according to the Harford State’s Attorney’s Office. On June 3 that year, they found one rooster with a lacerated wing and damaged plumage on his chest, which are injuries consistent with cockfighting, authorities said. They also found medical supplies that could be used to treat injured birds.

Lopez-Villalba was identified as a person who likely owned the roosters and used them for fighting. Investigators discovered multiple videos posted by Lopez-Villalba on social media that showed him carrying roosters into the pit and forcing them to fight, according to the state’s attorney’s office. The location in the videos was identified as the same cockfighting pit that investigators previously observed.

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Investigators obtained a search and seizure warrant for the Madonna Road property Oct. 3, 2021, assisted by veterinarians and other staff from the Humane Society. Investigators discovered 209 fowl on the property; 135 were roosters, authorities said, and many had old injuries or scars that were consistent with cockfighting.

They also found “keep cages” in a barn, which are solitary confinement devices for roosters that are used to make them more aggressive before a fight. According to the report, 55 of the roosters had been dubbed and veterinarians determined that 39 of the chickens were underweight.

“It was heartbreaking — truly haunting — to be on that property among animals who had endured lives of suffering, violence and fear,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, Maryland director for the Humane Society of the United States. “We are grateful to Harford County authorities and the State’s Attorney for pursuing justice for these birds and ensuring no animal will be forced to fight on that property again.”

Lopez-Villalba was on the property near the cockfighting area when the search warrant was executed. He admitted to owning the sparring puppet and dubbing the roosters. He denied that the roosters were used for fighting, but he admitted having them touch noses and making them charge at each other, according to the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office. He was arrested and charged.

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“Animal cruelty of any kind is disturbing and atrocious behavior, but forcing innocent animals to fight for sport is particularly cruel and heartless,” said Harford County State’s Attorney Albert J. Peisinger Jr. “I am extremely proud of the work that my office and our partners in law enforcement and the Humane Society did to hold this man accountable for these heinous crimes. This sentence should serve as a warning that this type of reprehensible behavior will not be tolerated at any level in this county.”

Lopez-Villalba is being held at the Harford County Detention Center awaiting transfer to a state prison, according to Gavin Patashnick from the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office.


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