Final two suspects in Summit County rooster case plead guilty |

Final two suspects in Summit County rooster case plead guilty

The Summit County Animal Shelter in Frisco.
Sawyer D’Argonne /

BRECKENRIDGE — Another pair of out-of-towners responsible for illegally transporting roosters through Summit County pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges during separate hearings Monday at the Summit County Justice Center.

Cody Smith of Kentucky and Austin Clanton of Tennessee pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges after being caught transporting roosters across state lines in May 2019. Officials believe the roosters, 33 in total, were likely to be used for unlawful purposes, such as cockfighting.

Just after noon May 15, a trooper with the Colorado State Patrol pulled over an SUV on Interstate 70 near Exit 205 at Silverthorne due to unreadable license plates. Smith was driving the vehicle at the time, and Clanton — who identified himself as Smith’s brother to police — was riding in the backseat. There also was another person in the car named Kenneth Dotson, also from Kentucky.

According to police reports, the men said they were taking the car to their associate in California, later identified as Jose Saltos. Dotson and Saltos each pleaded guilty last month to a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge related to the case. Dotson was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation, and Saltos was given a 12 month deferred judgment.

During the traffic stop, the trooper noticed a “squawking sound” coming from the trunk of the vehicle. The men said they were taking roosters to Saltos in California along with the car. In the police report, Clanton claimed not to know Saltos and said he was just along “for a free vacation.”

Summit County Animal Control arrived on scene shortly thereafter and took the roosters into their care. The roosters were being kept in wooden boxes — about 21 inches long by 14 inches wide — and were separated into smaller spaces inside the boxes. The boxes were in poor condition, stacked on top of one another, and there was urine and feces covering the trunk. There also was no food or water found in the car, according to the report.

The roosters were taken out of the boxes, treated by a veterinarian and placed in individual kennels with water and food. Despite the poor conditions — the report notes some birds were dehydrated and others had sores or missing spurs — the roosters were at a healthy weight. Ultimately, county officials were forced to put the birds down.

In June last year, the roosters were euthanized under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While the Summit County Animal Shelter originally hoped to rehome the birds, officials decided against it based on recommendations from experts with the state and Colorado State University citing elevated risks of avian diseases. After the birds were killed, they were sent to the university for testing and the results later came back negative for disease.

Following the traffic stop, Smith, Dotson and Clanton were given a ride to the Frisco Transfer Station to arrange transportation out of town. In July, the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office charged all three men, along with Saltos, for animal fighting and cruelty to animals.

On Monday, Smith and Clanton joined the other two men in wrapping up their cases, appearing for their hearings via telephone in front of District Court Chief Judge Mark Thompson.

Smith dialed in first just after 9 a.m. and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty. Thompson sentenced him to 60 days in jail, suspended on the condition he successfully completes one year of unsupervised probation. Smith also will have to pay $500 in restitution to the Summit County Animal Shelter along with other fines.

Clanton called in later in the afternoon. He also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty and received a 12-month deferred judgment — meaning that if he can get through the next year without any new violations, the charges will be dropped. Otherwise he’ll be brought back in for resentencing. He’ll also have to pay $500 in restitution to the animal shelter in addition to court fees.

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