Photo by Jim Weber of the Commercial Appeal - A rooster has ironically taken up residence in the meadow across the street from Gus's Fried Chicken in Collierville, where he eyeballs customers as they arrive for lunch Monday afternoon.
MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WVLT) -- One Morristown couple faces animal cruelty charges for alleged cock fighting, but they say the hens and roosters were for food.
Epifanio Morales and Reyna Flores are charged with 19 counts of animal cruelty.
It's against Morristown city codes to keep or raise chickens, but that's the only law the family says it broke.
"They put two of them in a ring and whichever one's living at the end is the victor. It's really cruel," said Hamblen County Animal Control Officer Matthew Blake.
Juan Ramos agreed; cock fighting is cruel. He also said it wasn't happening at his brother-in-law's house.
"If they were having a rooster fight, where was the knife? And how come the roosters weren't cut or bruised?" Ramos added.
Animal Control took 18 healthy chickens and a skinny dog off the property, saying it found "cock fighting paraphernalia."
"Stuff that normal people with chickens wouldn't have. It's basically like steroids for the chickens. It boosts their blood count and gets them healthier," Blake told us.
Ramos says that kind of proves his point.
"The rooster had a cold. So they bought medicine....when you put roosters on medicine, they sometimes quit eating. So they bought vitamins to put him on."
A neighbor added, "I had never seen them fighting chickens."
But Blake said signs of trauma can't be denied.
"The spurs on their legs are actually filed down and cut to fit the knives that they use to do the fighting," he continued.
The rescued roosters are extra aggressive and have to be caged separately. If they're kept together, as the shelter already found out, they'll kill each other.
"Even some of the hens that were brought in, one of them is going to have to be euthanized because we kept it in a cage with two other hens and they pecked it behind it's head," Blake said.
Now it's up to to the court to decide if this is a case of cockfighting or a simple code violation. Morales and Flores are due in court May 21st.
As for the fowl, the Hamblen County Animal Shelter will keep them until they can find permanent homes on farms around the county.