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Top 10: Dog- and cock-fighting ring discovered in August

This dog was one of several found at a Pierce County property where a suspected dog- and cock-fighting operation was discovered in September. Photo courtesy of ASPCA

Editor's note: This story is part of a series looking back at some of the biggest stories of 2018. Find the rest of the series here: Top Ten 2018.

In late August, Pierce County law enforcement and other officials rescued animals and arrested two people in connection to an alleged dog- and cock-fighting operation.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Office and officials from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals discovered over 1,500 animals at a W7789 County Road BB, Spring Valley farm in connection to an animal fighting ring on Aug. 30. The discovery happened after U.S. marshals arrested Houa Dai Yang, the property owner, on a drug-related warrant, and the marshals saw drugs at the home.

Yang's partner, Senyen Vang, is also being tried for both animal-fighting and drug charges and allegedly attempted to sneak out a safe with methamphetamine inside of it. Vang is facing 43 felony charges related to animal fighting, a felony drug charge and several misdemeanors. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Law enforcement officials previously told the Herald they found about 4 pounds of meth wrapped in greased-layered tinfoil, which is used to mask the smell from narcotics dogs, in the safe, a pound of dried marijuana and indoor marijuana growing tools on the property.

At an Oct. 9 preliminary hearing for Vang, officials from the ASPCA and county sheriff's office described the evidence of the alleged crimes, which included roosters with modified spurs, an inner leg growth for defense, and training structures like flight cages, which strengthen the roosters by forcing them to fly to a higher-than-typical perch repeatedly.

An ASPCA official described numerous dog fighting accessories on the property at the hearing, including long, heavy chains on the animals and others that were all meant to increase the dogs' strength and stamina.

At that hearing Vang's attorneys attempted to question her connection to the drugs, but Court Commissioner Jorv Gavic moved the case forward. Her attorneys did not contest or attempt to have them thrown out during the preliminary hearing.

At an Oct. 3 court proceeding, county officials said that the ASPCA estimated 30-day care costs for the animals at almost $500,000. As a nonprofit, the animal-rights organization takes on the costs and attempts to place them in new homes.

The county reported that there were 1,700 chickens, three goats and 20 dogs on the property.

The Vang-Yang case is the second major animal cruelty case in Pierce County in the last two years. In 2016, Elmwood-area resident Stuart West was convicted for 62 separate charges in relation to an animal abuse investigation.

Vang is set for a pre-trial conference on Jan. 22 for the charges.