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Man says he’s not guilty in death of 31 chickens

A Perry County man pleaded “not guilty” to cruelty to animals on Thursday in connection with the deaths of 31 chickens.

James Cochran, 24, entered his plea before Perry County District Court Judge Richard Avery Jr. A trial is scheduled for May 10.

“The case is pending, and we’ll be trying it in District Court,” said Don McMillian, Perry County assistant district attorney.

Cochran’s charge, a Class B misdemeanor, stems from the alleged starving of several chickens at his residence. A representative from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals discovered the chickens in November 2003 after a telephone call alerted the organization.

Cochran’s attorney, James Barnes, couldn’t be reached for comment.

According to Amy Rhodes, senior animals in entertainment specialist with PETA, a PETA activist in Birmingham was contacted after she got the call. The representative, along with a Perry County Sheriff’s Department deputy, went to Cochran’s home and allegedly discovered 81 chickens, 31 of them dead and many malnourished.

“It is suspected that the animals were being bred for use in illegal cockfighting,” Rhodes said. “People who demonstrate such blatant disregard for life and desensitization to suffering can pose a serious risk to the people and animals with whom they come in contact.”

In a letter to McMillian, Rhodes states that several roosters had their combs removed. “This, as you may know, is a routine practice in the cockfighting industry – the combs are removed so that when roosters are forced to fight one another, they cannot grab one another’s combs,” she adds.

A comb is the fleshy crest on the head of a rooster.

A motion from McMillian enabled the confiscation of 38 birds on Jan. 31. The animals are currently being kept in two sanctuaries.

Rhodes said she wants the Court to restrain Cochran from owning animals in the future and order him to pay restitution to the sanctuaries caring for the birds.

Restraining Cochran from possessing animals could be possible, though it probably wouldn’t last indefinitely, Dallas County District Attorney Ed Greene said. “This office is in the business of prosecuting violations of the law,” Greene said. “We stand prepared to prosecute cases involving cruelty to animals.”

If convicted, Cochran would face a maximum of six months in jail, two years probation and up to $1,000 fine.