The Calaveras County fairgrounds is housing 156 roosters, hens and chicks after an illegal marijuana grow was raided by the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 28 in the 3000 block of Wagonwheel Drive in Copperopolis.

Animal Control Services (ACS) employees, assisted by fairgrounds employees and volunteers from the Sheriff’s Office and Calaveras County Code Compliance worked from morning until past midnight to recage the birds and transport them safely to the fairgrounds, which is designated as an animal evacuation site by the county.

“Originally, the estimate was approximately 1,000 roosters,” Calaveras County ACS Director Evan Jacobs told the Enterprise on Aug. 29. “We had to do mutual aid request with Tuolumne (County). They sent two Animal Control officers who helped for five or six hours.”

One chicken died during the process due to stress, Jacobs said.

At the fairgrounds, Calaveras County Fair CEO Laurie Giannini and the Animal Evacuation Team utilized poultry and rabbit cages to house the roosters and built a large pen for the hens, while fashioning makeshift water dispensers out of plastic bottles.

The fairgrounds and ACS are now sharing in the daily tasks of caring for the birds, Giannini said.

“We have this great partnership because I’m able to take our expertise, which is livestock, and partner with Animal Services, and together, we can really take care of situations for our community,” Giannini said.

According to Jacobs, ACS typically holds animals for approximately 14 days, to allow for owner retrieval, before putting them up for adoption.

However, due to the “aggressive nature” of many of the roosters, the department has yet to determine the best course of action, Jacobs said.

As a precaution, 15 of the birds were tested by the State Veterinarian for Newcastle disease, an extremely contagious virus that affects poultry, and all tested negative, according to Jacobs.

In addition to the chickens, a dog and a cat at the grow site were also taken into custody by ACS. 615 marijuana plants were also confiscated at the site.

Jacobs did not comment on any investigative aspects of the incident, but thanked the fairgrounds staff and all volunteers for assisting in the evacuation.

“Without their help, we’d still be there,” Jacobs said.

The sheriff’s office is still investigating the grow site for illegal cultivation and animal cruelty.

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Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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