KELSO – Wildlife officers with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission arrested 29 people on Sunday after discovering a cockfighting ring in Desha County. Officers were investigating several vehicles parked near a canal on Hilburn Road just off Arkansas Highway 138 near Kelso.
AGFC Corporal Chuck Willis and Wildlife Officer First Class Jonathan Byrd were on routine patrol when they found a large group of people surrounding what they later determined to be a cockfighting ring. After contacting the group, several people fled the area on foot. The fleeing individuals eventually returned to the scene.
There were 29 adult men and 2 juveniles at the scene. The adults were charged with cruelty to animals, a Class A misdemeanor. The juveniles in the case were not charged.
A court date was set for April 1 at 9 a.m. in Dumas District Court. If convicted, the defendants could face up to a year in jail and a fine up to $1,000. There were 10 individuals who were charged with Fleeing a Wildlife Officer with a total bond of $2,200.
Officers found 20 live chickens and 10 dead chickens at the scene. The wildlife officers also found farm equipment believed to be stolen. The equipment had an estimated value of $5,000.
The Desha County Sheriff's Office and the Arkansas State Police assisted with the arrests. The case has been turned over to the Desha County Sheriff's Office.