A Massachusetts barbershop has been closed after city inspectors discovered chickens, pigeons and roosters – including one dead bird – in the basement of Bad Boyz Cutz, surrounded by religious paraphernalia.
The owner of the barbershop, William Camacho, told officials that the birds were for animal sacrifices and claims that closing his shop amounted to religious discrimination.
The animals were found in an inspection of the building by New Bedford Animal Control following an anonymous tip complaining of loud poultry-type sounds coming from the building.
The birds -- three chickens, two pigeons and four roosters -- were penned in wire cages and a cardboard box. They were found in a room with an ornate alter with candles and statues near a wall illustrated with hand-drawn religious symbols.
No cutting implements or evidence of violence was found in the room, Scott Langley, mayor of New Bedford, told ABCNews.com
Officials initially thought the animals were being kept as a cock fighting ring, but Camacho, 41, said they were being to be used for animal sacrifice as part of his religion, which incorporates elements of Afro-Caribbean rituals.
"It's called Palo Mayombe . It's actually working with the dead and working with the spirits. We use the roosters to sacrifice so that the spirits can eat. That's the way they eat. It's a tradition," he told ABC affiliate WLNE.
Barber Says Religious Discrmination Caused Shop to Close
Comacho believes he is the target of religious discrimination, telling ABC News, "I feel violated for my rights." He maintains that he's never practiced animal sacrifice in his business and was temporarily storing the animals in his business before transporting them elsewhere.
Langley told ABCNews.com that the alleged practice of animal sacrifice has absolutely nothing to do with closing of Bad Boyz Cutz.
"Some of the animals were kept in cages, and others in cardboard boxes," said Langley. "The reason why the barbershop was shut down was because of the unsanitary conditions. There's no running water, water, no sink to protect customers against health hazards."
"There were feces all over the basement, lots of flies and no sealed door between barbershop and basement. With all the traffic the shop gets, this is a clear health violation. The question regarding his religious practice has never been factored into the fact that you can't keep animals in that manner or in that way in our city."
Langley says once Comacho cleans the shop and passes a health inspection, he's free to open the doors of Bad Boyz Cutz for business.