Detectives from the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office joined with the Funny Farm Rescue of May's Landing and the South Jersey Wildlife Aid Rehabilitation and Sanctuary Rescue to secure the safe and humane relocation of animals impacted by a criminal enterprise located in the Newtonville section of Buena Vista Township earlier this year.
According to officials on Saturday, March 4, efforts by these agencies culminated in the rehoming of more than 200 birds.
Officials say on January 26, an investigation by ACPO and the New Jersey State Police was prompted by an anonymous complaint to the State Department of Agriculture, which was forwarded to ACPO’s Humane Law Enforcement Officer, Detective Manino, for criminal review.
That investigation found multiple animals held in inhumane conditions, including a dog, ducks, turkeys, chickens, roosters, cats, and other birds.
According to authorities, evidence indicative of cockfighting led to criminal charges against Queli Merlo and Sigfredo Perez for keeping/using a place for the purpose of fighting living animals, a third-degree crime.
Those charges are pending a grand jury.
Following the criminal charges, ACPO maintained constant supervision of the property until the Department of Agriculture entered the following morning.
According to officials, numerous animals were surrendered for safekeeping and rehoming.
Officials say a quarantine was issued, and animals were disease-tested, leading to at least one being euthanized.
After testing, detectives from the prosecutor's office, along with volunteers from local rescues and the public, gathered at the property on March 4th to begin rehoming the birds.
Detectives and volunteers worked from 9 AM to 8 PM to move the ducks, hens, roosters, and turkeys to their new homes at local rescues.