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Colorado sanctuary rescues fighting roosters

20 birds rescued from Oklahoma cockfighting bust
Posted: 6:43 PM, Aug 23, 2016
Updated: 2016-08-24 00:43:57Z

BENNETT, Colo. -- A Colorado woman is making it her mission to rescue cockfighting roosters.

On Colorado's Eastern Plains, Jewel Johnson is a rooster whisperer of sorts, running a sanctuary for an animal not many others really want to save.

"Hey Micah! Come and have some treats," she said, petting a large rooster who came from a cockfighting bust in Wyoming. "He is such a sweetheart."

Just last week, when she saw a report about a cockfighting ring busted in Oklahoma, she took action and drove there to rescue 20 roosters.

"People look at me like I grew another head. They don’t know why I’m doing it, but that’s precisely why I should be doing it," said Johnson. "Basically, to be born a male chicken in this world is a death sentence.”

Johnson has been running the sanctuary for almost six years, and said she also been overwhelmed with backyard birds.

"Denver doesn't allow roosters, so when people realize they got one, they have to find a place for it," said Johnson, who is vegan and encourages people not to have backyard hens in part because they take up resources for cockfighting roosters who are truly abused.

"He’s got an injury to his eye," she said, holding one of her new rescues from Oklahoma.

It's obvious this bird has been fought, she said, in part because his comb and waddle have been cut off.

Other have their spurs cut off and are missing toes.

"They're misunderstood, and that's where I'm needed," said Johnson, who has now saved more than 100 birds from cockfighting busts in Wyoming and New Mexico.  "The common thing you hear from animal control workers is that they’re not 'rehabilitatable,' and so they all have to be euthanized. I just want to change that stereotype."

She said the roosters are not typically human-aggressive, and she is planning to build a rooster integration yard, so that one day her roosters can live peacefully together without fighting.

She and her boyfriend build their own coops to save money, and they pay for everything with their day jobs. She is in the medical field.

They also take donations and let people sponsor birds.

"To me, they're individuals that need to be protected and advocated for," said Johnson. "The need somebody to stick up for them."

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