York Regional police say they have uncovered a cockfighting ring north of Markham, charging 70 people from across the Toronto region and Quebec.

The alleged ring was discovered on Feb. 14 when police officers and officials from the Ontario SPCA went to a home in the Town of East Gwillimbury to check out a report of animal cruelty.

Police said they discovered numerous dead and live roosters in a barn on the property and rounded up 70 people at the home.

The following day police returned and found six dead roosters and 74 live birds, which were euthanized by a veterinarian.

Det.-Sgt. Dieter Boeheim said the scene in the barn was graphic.

"The scene I saw on Saturday ranks right up there with the worst things I've seen in policing," he told CBC News.

"It's absolutely disgusting and heinous. It's a blood sport — one kills the other one in front of a crowd. Two birds that are naturally aggressive to each other, having razor-sharp metal blades attached to them, it's a gruesome sight."

Police allege Danilo Patawaran, 52, and Deanna Patawaran, 46, organized the cockfights, and the charges against them include causing unnecessary suffering, keeping a cockpit and keeping a betting house.

They were released from custody and are scheduled to appear in a Newmarket, Ont., court on March 18.

The remaining 68 people were charged with causing unnecessary suffering and being found in a common betting house. Many of those charged had brought their own roosters to the cockfight.

With files from the Canadian Press