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Animal fighting-related charges filed in Pierce County case

Authorities said roosters, including this one, were raised for fighting at a Pierce County farm, where a resident has been charged with multiple felonies. Photo courtesy of ASPCA1 / 3
Senyen Vang2 / 3
Authorities said dogs, including this one, were raised for fighting at a Pierce County farm, where a resident has been charged with multiple felonies. Photo courtesy of ASPCA3 / 3

More than three-dozen felony charges were filed Monday against a Pierce County woman accused of housing an animal-fighting operation on her farm.

The Pierce County District Attorney's Office on Sept. 11 charged 36-year-old Senyen Vang with 43 counts of possessing animals to be instigated for fighting. She was arrested at her rural Spring Valley home Sept. 5, nearly a week after authorities went there to arrest her boyfriend, Houa Dia Yang, who was sought for a federal drug-related warrant. While at the farm, investigators spotted drugs and suspicious animal operations that sparked a larger investigation.

The animal-related charges come on top of felony drug charges against Vang, who is also accused of possessing 5 pounds of methamphetamine found in a safe that authorities say she tried packing up with her belongings.

A preliminary hearing in Vang's drug case is set for Sept. 17, though a warrant was issued for her arrest on Sept. 11; she posted $5,000 cash bond on Monday, Sept. 10.

According to a criminal complaint:

Inspection of the property revealed items including documents for chicken-related bedding, food, housing supplies and the purchase of birds from a hatchery.

A search of the farm's outbuildings turned up several dogs that appeared skinny and malnourished, none of which had food or water available to them.

Officials from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) were called. An ASPCA official told an investigator that roosters on the property "were definitely for cockfighting," the complaint states.

"She believed dog fighting was also occurring or training the dogs for dog fighting," the complaint states.

Authorities documented finding:

-- 20 dogs, 12 of which were being trained to fight.

-- Break sticks, a treadmill and a dog pit, along with a bloody carpet marked with scratch lines for fighting.

-- 1,717 birds, 31 of which were confirmed by ASPCA officials to be individually caged roosters for cockfighting.

-- "Dubbing" of spurs to attach a fighting appliance as well as sharpened spurs.

-- Roosters found in "flight cages — designed to fly up and gain muscle."

-- Supplements for enhancing bird performance.

-- Training mitts, some of which were homemade, while others were manufactured.

-- Training dummy and flirt cages, along with a foam pit "that contained blood and feathers which is consistent with a cock fight," the complaint states.

In interviews with investigators, Vang denied knowing the animals were part of any fighting operation, though she admitted they all belonged to her. Pierce County Sheriff's Office investigator Collin Gilles said Vang's statements raised doubts.

"None of her information was believable," he wrote in his report.

Vang told officers she and Yang had been together about 10 years and that he was in charge of feeding the dogs. Investigators spoke with the owner of BF Feeds in Glenwood City, who reported knowing Yang as "Howie," and that he'd been acquainted with him for about 12-15 years as a customer who bought goats to butcher and food for chickens and dogs. The feed owner said Yang had bought a pallet of corn about a month ago and placed orders for other specialized feed.

The owner "suspected Houa was up to something because 4-5 years ago he said that the cops were looking around at his place," the complaint states. He noted that Yang bought 1-1.5 tons of feed from him over the past year.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

(651) 301-7867
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