A group of accused finch-fighting ringleaders could be in the clear for alleged songbird battles if their lawyers get them into a probation program for first-time offenders.
Nineteen men from Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey, all natives of Brazil, were arrested in July in Shelton after police searched 176 Ripton Road as part of an ongoing investigation and found some disturbing evidence that finches and canaries were being forced into battle.
All the defendants appeared briefly in Derby Superior Court on Monday, and their cases were continued to Sept. 1.
They also waived their right to own the 150 birds police seized from the house on July 26. The state Department of Agriculture took custody of the birds. Most of the birds are saffron finches, and a few are canaries.
Police said some of the birds had previous injuries, including blindness, when they were seized. Police said some of the birds’ beaks had been sharpened and cops found antibiotics and supplements to increase the birds’ stamina to fight.
The defendants are charged with cruelty to animals and gambling.