A day after Catawba County deputies pulled up over 2,000 opium poppy plants from a yard near Claremont, they returned to confiscate 358 animals. In addition to the live animals, officials found 40 dead in cages and pens.
The dozens of chickens, dogs and cats were removed by Catawba County Animal Services on Wednesday.
Catawba County officials said in a statement that they are investigating whether the chickens were used for cockfighting.
“Many of the animals appeared injured with open sores and missing feathers or (were) sick and had signs of neglect,” said a statement issued by the department. “The animals were taken to a secure location and immediately fed and hydrated. They are being examined by veterinarians, tested for communicable diseases … and evaluated for re-homing potential.”
The animals were spotted as the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office was seizing an entire field of poppy plants Tuesday. They arrested the resident of the property, Cody Xiong, on a charge of the manufacture and trafficking by possession.
It was estimated there were 2,000 plants, which are used in the manufacturing of opium. The field was about an acre located near Claremont, a town about 40 miles north of Charlotte.
Officials gave a rough estimate of $500 million for the value of the opium on the market. A more accurate figure will be available after the 2,000 plants have been weighed, officials have told media outlets.
Catawba County Animal Services and the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office are continuing their investigation in this case and will be discussing their findings with the district attorney.