- Associated Press - Thursday, August 4, 2016

STERLING, Va. (AP) - A Loudon County woman has been found guilty of animal cruelty after she sacrificed roosters as a Santeria religious practice.

Media outlets report that 43-year-old Mercy Carrion, a Santeria priestess, said in court Wednesday that the charges against her violated her First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

Prosecutor Alexandra Hazel argued that Carrion could sacrifice the birds, but said she broke the law by failing to care for them beforehand and then slaughtering them in an inhumane way.

A judge ultimately convicted Carrion of three misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.

Loudon County animal control officers testified that they found no evidence of food for the roosters in Carrion’s home during an April search. They also said Carrion had told them the roosters died over three to five minutes.

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