Roy animal sanctuary takes in nearly 60 roosters rescue from cockfighting


Roy’s Heartwood Haven, a sanctuary that specializes with animals rescued from cruelty cases, recently rescued nearly 60 roosters, stemming from a cockfighting operation bust in eastern Washington.

U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref announced Thursday, April 18, that 34 people from across the country were indicted on charges of criminal conspiracy related to illegal drugs, firearms, money laundering, cockfighting and attempts to kill witnesses, according to

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force included multiple agencies in eastern Washington along with operations in Louisiana, Colorado, and Arkansas, and was joined by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in investigating La Nuestra Familia.

The criminal organization was responsible for the cockfighting that led to the Heartwood Haven rescue, along with possession and distribution of illegal drugs, possession of illegal firearms, illegal use of U.S. mail and attempts to kill individuals assisting law enforcement throughout the investigation, according to a news release. More information relating to the charges and the case can be found at

In the aftermath of the indictments, Kate Tsyrklevich, with Heartwood Haven, brought nearly 60 roosters from Yakima County to the animal rescue in Pierce County shortly after the bust commenced.

“They found out that this prison gang was using cockfighting as an income source, setting up derbies for cockfighting in order to win money. It was a really big income source for them. Cockfighting in general is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. It’s massive,” Tsyrklevich told the Nisqually Valley News on May 6.

“It’s a lot bigger and more pervasive than people realize that it is,” she added. “Every time we do a cockfighting bust and information gets around, we have so many people that contact us, and they’re like ‘I think my neighbor might be cockfighting. Is this a cockfighting setup?’ And they’ll send us photos.”

Tsyrklevich said that Heartwood Haven works on “at least” one cockfighting bust per year and noted that seizing cockfighting roosters and rescuing the poultry are completely different.

She said the seizure of the animals leads to euthanization, while rescues, such as those made at Heartwood Haven, allow the fowl to be rehomed and given a second chance at life.

“Cockfighting is a brutal, what people would consider, sport, I guess. It’s very similar to dog fighting but probably even more [brutal],” Tsyrklevich said. “This has the potential to be the largest-ever cockfighting rescue in Washington … So far, we have taken in almost 60 birds. We’re hoping that we’re going to get more.”

Several roosters at Heartwood Haven have yet to be rehomed, and Tsyrklevich said that the roosters aren’t aggressive to humans. In fact, Tsyrklevich said they’re quite friendly to people once they’re acquainted with them.

“They’re trained to fight and kill each other. It’s just like dog fighting: Pit bulls can be sweet dogs. Same things with these roosters.” Tsyrklevich said. “They’re the nicest roosters ever, and that’s part of the reason they’re used. If they weren’t nice to people, they wouldn’t be able to be picked up, grabbed and thrown hundreds of times a day without fighting. They have human contact constantly.”

Tsyrklevich said because Heartwood Haven has frequently worked on cockfighting busts, word has spread that her sanctuary is a safe and viable location for the roosters to go until they’re rehomed. She added that she’s had the gambling commission, animal control and other federal agencies reach out in rescue effort attempts.

“I think that because Heartwood Haven has worked on so many cockfighting busts, a lot of rescues in our area, specifically farm animal rescues, which is what we do, know this is something we’ve had success with. Basically, word gets around,” said. “They’ll usually reach out to whatever local rescue there is, and that local rescue could then recommend Heartwood Haven.”

For those interested in adopting one of the rescued roosters, visit

To donate to the Heartwood Haven organization, visit