New York City teacher Hector Cruz — who calls himself the “Bird King” online — was arrested Tuesday for running a rooster farm in Bronx, where he allegedly raised, trained and sold the fighting avians.
The NYPD’s Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad caught word of Cruz’s operation in February 2016 after a 311 call reported a “large number of roosters” in the backyard of a building.
When members of the squad got there, Cruz “voluntarily provided the NYPD officers with a tour of the backyard of the Bronx Rooster Farm, which housed approximately 40 to 45 roosters and/or hens of different ages,” according to criminal complaint filed in Manhattan Federal Court.
There were more roosters than hens and they were “dubbed” — which, in cockfighting, means the birds are “groomed or mutilated in distinct ways,” court papers say.
Cruz — an ESL teacher at P.S. 211 who rakes in $94,173 a year — caught the eyes of authorities, including his social media posts.
On there, he talked about “his success in fighting roosters… his ownership of roosters known for their cockfighting ability … the sale and shipment of roosters known for their cockfighting ability … and the money he makes from owning and selling roosters.”
The name on his social media account is “Rajah Khan” — which “appears to be a play on words that means, in sum and substance, ‘Bird King,’” authorities said.
Outside the courtroom, Cruz said the allegations he raised bellicose birds are “just trash talk” and that he has no involvement in anything. He then directed further comment to his lawyer, who declined to say anything.
Cruz is charged with selling, possessing, and transporting animals for the purpose of participating in an animal fight, could get up to five years in federal prison.
Cruz got a $25,000 bond. Under his bail conditions, he is not allowed to buy, possess, or sell live chickens pending trial, officials said.