Barn fires, other farm incidents claim thousands of animal lives

Barn fires have claimed the lives of more than 18,000 animals in Pennsylvania in the past ten days.

Yes. 18,000 animals. 

On Wednesday night 40 cows perished in a dairy barn in Bradford County in the north central part of the state. Another 50 who escaped had to be euthanized because smoke inhalation. More details here.

Last week ago, 18,000 Pekin ducks were killed when a fire broke out on a Mennonite farm in Franklin County, west of Harrisburg. More details here.

Neither fire is considered suspicious, but we ask, is anyone examining the causes further or looking for ways to prevent future catastrophes that translate to big dollar losses for farmers and widespread animal suffering?

Combustible sileage like hay and straw or sparks from machinery can touch off fires in the summer months. Winter barn fires are often connected to poor wiring - or in the case of Amish and some Mennonite farms, faulty kerosene heaters.

Surely, barns in Pennsylvanis should have some level of fire protection. And new barns should be constructed with fire retardent materials. 

Under the 2008 dog law, all kennel owners must have fire extinguishers in their facilities. Some animal shelters also have installed sprinkler systems. Expensive, yes, but how much is the life of an animal worth? 

Should there be regulations governing fire prevention in livestock barns? Should the Department of Agriculture inspect barns as they do kennels?

Don't forget the horrific case last fall of some 900 pigs whose bodies were found nearly two years after being abandoned by their owner in a barn in Fulton County. The owner  - who pleaded guilty to animal cruelty - claimed they drowned from a malfunctioning manure disposal system, but other humane experts believe they were starved and the pigs' bodies were too decomposed to say conclusively. 

Since no agency is charged with inspecting safety conditions in barns, there's no assurance we won't see a repeat of these tragic incidents.