On the basis of covert video footage shot by an animal protection group, authorities have brought charges of a total of 21 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty against the owner and seven workers at Ontario Livestock Sales, self-described as one of southern California’s “oldest and largest” livestock auction yards.
In its latest undercover video investigation, “Auction Atrocities,” Mercy for Animals targeted a “family-owned and operated” company whose website says has been in business since 1936, selling some 1,000 to 1,200 livestock “heads” including horses, cattle, goats, sheep, hogs, and exotic animals every week.
The video evidence and further investigation by Inland Valley Humane Society led the San Bernardino District Attorney’s office to bring the charges against company owner Horacio Santorsola and seven employees, according to Associated Press. Possible penalties include a year in county jail and fines of up to $1,000.
Kicking, pummeling, stomping, dragging
Video that MFA reports was shot with a concealed camera shows several different workers repeatedly kicking, pummeling, stomping on, dragging, and throwing various types of animals including pigs, goats, sheep, and emu-like birds. Smaller birds are roughly stuffed into stacks.
One cow oozes and bleeds from her vulva, a common symptom of prolapsed uterus. Veterinarians whom this reporter has interviewed in the past describe the condition as acutely painful and usually fatal.
Some of the animals appear to be only a few weeks or months of age.
“Management at this auction,” says the video’s narrator, “witnessed these sick baby goats, gasping for air and unable to stand or walk, yet left them to die overnight.”
Other animals show signs of such severe illness or injury that they are unable to stand. The MFA investigator reportedly gathered evidence that many of those animals “routinely suffered to death” with no food, water, or veterinary care.
Law protects ‘downed’ animals
In California it is illegal for auctions to sell or hold so-called “downed” animals who are not able to walk. “Downed animals are more likely to carry diseases that threaten public health if allowed to enter the human food supply,” MFA says.
American Veterinary Medicine Association guidelines state that “if an animal is down at a non-terminal market (e.g. sale yard or auction), the following procedures should be followed:
“If the animal is not in extreme distress, but is disabled, treatment measures should be initiated. If the animal is in extreme distress or the condition is obviously irreversible, the animal should be euthanized immediately.”
In its policy regarding “Transport, Sale Yard Practices, and Humane Slaughter of Livestock,” the AVMA states, “Physical abuse of animals must not be tolerated under any circumstances.”
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