The owner of a Greencastle, PA livestock auction house was found not guilty of animal cruelty at a summary trial this Monday. Jeffery S. Craig, owner and manager of the Greencastle Livestock Market had been charged with animal cruelty following an incident on November 9, 2010 at his auction yard in which Animals' Angels investigators documented the suffering of a non-ambulatory or "downer" dairy cow.
According to testimony given by the defendant himself, the cow was ignored by auction workers for more than 10 hours, before one of them finally shot the struggling animal. At the trial, Mr. Craig said that he wanted to give the animal more time, so that there was some hope of "getting her on a truck to get her slaughtered and get some money out of her." "We like to send our customers a check for their cow, not a bill for a dead cow", he added.
AA investigators testified that the "downer" cow had apparently been moved with a bobcat to an outside pen where dead animals are taken. Unable to rise , the weakened animal laid there next to a dead cow with her legs jutting out awkwardly for several hours.
"She lay there suffering quietly like dairy cows do," testified the lead investigator.
PA law requires that whoever has the duty of care for an animal has to provide it with necessary sustenance, water and veterinary care.
|Downer cow left next to dead cow and bobcat|
However, in handing down his verdict District Judge Duane Cunningham said that the treatment of the animal fell within normal procedure for a livestock auction and did not constitute abuse.
Nonetheless, the case represents a victory against the ongoing animal cruelty at the Greencastle auction, according to Sonja Meadows, Executive Director for Animals' Angels. "This is the first time Mr. Craig had to answer publicly for the treatment of animals at his auction. That charges were brought and the case was heard in open court shows that the winds have changed. The public is not willing to tolerate the suffering of these defenseless animals," said Meadows. "We will continue to observe the auction and I don't believe the judge will be as forgiving next time."
Animals' Angels has conducted investigations at Greencastle Auction for years and video footage proves that the November 2010 incident was not an isolated event. On 4 separate dates AA investigators documented dairy cows left to die instead of being euthanized. On 1 occasion they even had to witness a "downer" cow being shocked, kicked and ultimately being moved with a bobcat bucket and then forks.
To watch the video of some of the earlier incidents, please click here. (Warning: Graphic Content!)
|Alive cows on dead pile |
All this evidence was presented to the state veterinarian, representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the local humane officer. Meetings with auction owner Craig were held in March 2007 and again in September 2010. At each meeting Mr. Craig was made aware of the relevant laws and promised to ensure immediate euthanasia of suffering animals as well as improving the overall conditions at his auction.
However, when AA investigators returned to Greencastle auction in November 2010, they immediately found it was "business as usual." The downer cow being left next to the dead cow with no water or food certainly indicated that nothing had improved. Animals' Angels contacted law enforcement right away and Franklin County Humane Officer Buck Hessler agreed that the circumstances were severe enough to file animal cruelty charges against Mr. Craig.
"A trial like this was long overdue," said one courtroom observer. "I'd like to go to the auction and see these suffering animals are being taken care of, with no messing about."
Read the newspaper article about the trial...