A large Pennsylvania ferret farm that supplies animals to the Centers for Disease Control as well as pet retailers, has been fined $44,000 by the federal government for violating animal welfare and labor laws.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) fined Triple F Farms, Inc., in Sayre, $16,679 for violating at least eight regulations of the Animal Welfare Act, and the factory must pay employees $28,124.98 in back wages for 38 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
The fines come after PETA conducted an undercover investigation that showed systematic and fatal neglect of ferrets and subsequent federal inspections found similar conditions.
The PETA video shows disturbing images of ferrets with gaping wounds, exposed internal organs, ruptured and bloody eyes, left to suffer with no veterinary care. a dead ferret on the floor that the undercover worker said was run over by an employee pushing a food cart.
"Methods of disposing of newborn and young ferrets included burying them alive in feces and throwing them into an incinerator," the undercover worker said, "while others were intentionally killed by workers stepping on them and running them over with feed carts."
PETA's video footage revealed that supervisors and workers left newborn ferrets to die on the concrete floor after the animals had fallen through wire cage bottoms; deprived ferrets with bleeding rectal prolapses, herniated organs, gaping wounds, and other painful conditions of veterinary care or euthanasia; and housed ferrets in filthy, severely crowded conditions.
The USDA conducted the inspections of Triple F in August and September 2011 after the PETA video was released and in June cited the facility for eight violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
Among the federal inspectors' findings:
-Inadequately trained staff were performing "survival" surgery on ferrets in an unsterile environment.
-Dozens of newborn ferrets falling through wire mesh to the floor below.
-Contaminated food dishes and malfunctioning water containers that left ferrets with no access to food and young ferrets without access to water.
The Bradford County District Attorney's office found probable cause to file animal cruelty charges but deferred prosecution, according to PETA.
On its website, Triple F, which opened in 1985 and sells 6,000 ferrets a year, denied the cruelty charges, calling them "patently false."
PETA is calling on the Centers for Disease Control to cancel its $1.5 million contract with Triple F.
"Ferrets at Triple F Farms suffer every day and pay the ultimate price with their lives," says PETA's senior vice president of cruelty investigations Daphna Nachminovitch. "PETA is now asking the federal government to cancel any contracts with this violator."