BUSHWICK, Brooklyn -- It's a store with a banner out front that reads "Pet Friendly," but according to the NYPD, the ASPCA and its neighbors, it's anything but friendly to a variety of animals, especially cockfighting roosters.
The pet shop, Pet NV, at 71 Central Avenue, housed nearly 70 of them, according to police investigators, who raided the shop on Wednesday as part of the largest cockfighting ring in New York State history. However, it was by no means the first time the store has been raided, which has neighbors and former customers angry.
"When I saw the amount of boxes being taken out, I had tears in my eyes," neighbor Sunrise Winburn said about Wednesday's raid. It netted 68 cockfighting roosters, according to the NYPD, which coordinated the 10:30 A.M. action with the ASPCA. Thirty-three other animals, including a rabbit and a dog, were also seized.
All of the animals are now under ASPCA care.
The Wednesday morning raid was the latest in a series that have occurred over the years at the store, which is owned by Jeremias Nieves, 77. There was a similar raid on February 8th which hauled in at least 60 fighting birds, as well as a raid in 2014 and in 2000.
In that earliest raid, Nieves was charged with two felonies related to his cockfighting operation. He faced a sentence of four years in prison. That clearly did not stop him from being the target of subsequent investigations that yielded strong evidence against him.
A worker and manager at Pet NV on Thursday declined to comment.
However, many former customers were eager to speak.
"I actually regret ever making a purchase at that shop," said Natalia Clavier.
Feather Gurkin, a neighbor of the store, told PIX11 News, "Most people have boycotted their place. I don't know how they stay in business. Maybe because of these activities."
These activities have been found to have happened at this shop before. After the 2014 investigation there, the New York State attorney General's office said that it had discovered roosters "found in poor condition, had been kept inside individual metal cages and exhibited all the physical hallmarks of having been bred, trained, and altered for fighting.
"Cockfighting contraband and implements were found within the basement," a statement from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office at the time continued, "including artificial spurs, candle wax, medical adhesive tape, syringes used to inject performance-enhancing drugs to strengthen the roosters’ fighting ability and other cockfighting implements and paraphernalia."
Nieves had also pleaded guilty last year to felony Prohibition of Animal Fighting. That had apparently not stopped his operation, according to investigators.
So now, neighbors and former customers say that they'll attempt to shutter Pet NV through boycotting and other methods. "I thought they were, like, closed for good," said Clavier. "I'll do whatever I need to get them shut down."
"It makes me absolutely sick to my stomach," said Winburn, who also took dozens of photos of Wednesday's pet store raid. She added, "[It] has to be stopped."