ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – New Mexico cockfighters have filed a federal lawsuit seeking $77 million, claiming their civil rights were violated in the state’s enforcement of a 2007 law banning the bloodsport.

The class-action lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Las Cruces, challenges whether authorities had probable cause to make arrests and euthanize roosters during raids at New Mexico farms. It also alleges authorities wrongfully entered private property and improperly conducted interrogations.

State Attorney General Gary King, whose office oversees an animal cruelty task force, is listed among 11 defendants. A spokesman for King declined comment.

An estimated 700 chickens were destroyed after a raid on an alleged cockfighting operation earlier this month in San Juan County. Other raids took place in Dona Ana and Bernalillo counties.

The cockfighters’ latest legal effort comes less than a week after the New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld the state law outlawing cockfighting. It ruled that the ban outlaws using birds for fighting but does not prevent their ownership or breeding.

“It’s not against the law to breed them,” Ronnie Barron of Artesia, president of the New Mexico Game Fowl Breeders Association. “They’re just killing these chickens and it’s upsetting a lot of people.”

Cockfighting violations are a petty misdemeanor on first conviction, escalating to a felony on a third conviction.

AP-ES-05-13-09 1725EDT

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