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DES MOINES, Iowa  —  85 chickens and roosters have been rescued and their owner is facing felony charges after an alleged cockfighting bust in Des Moines.

Mariano Martinez Ramirez is charged with Felony Animal Contest as well as misdemeanors for excessive animal numbers and probation violation.

The rescue of the animals involved the Animal Rescue League, the Des Moines Police Department and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.  Ag officials tested the birds for contagious diseases before they were transferred to an ARL facility.

“Animal fighting is a horrible, vicious crime where the animals suffer greatly at the hands of those involved,” said ARL executive director Tom Colvin, ” 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.”

The ARL says this is the first illegal animal fighting case in the state of Iowa in seven years.