A month after after the grisly discovery of the mummified remains of hundreds of pigs at a Fulton County farm and an exhaustive investigation, criminal charges have been filed against the farmer who owned them. Animal welfare advocates, like Gene Baur, president and co-founder of the Farm Sanctuary, say while they are pleased cruelty charges have been brought, the fact that someone could inflict such suffering on so many animals and only be charged with what amounts to a very long list of "traffic tickets," is evidence it is time for Pennsylvania to review its animal cruelty law.
Here's the latest:
By Peter Mucha and Amy Worden
INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS
Each of the deaths of 832 hogs at a Pennsylvania farm has led to a summary count of animal cruelty against the Maryland man responsible for their care.
A criminal complaint was filed Thursday alleging that Daniel Lee Clark Sr., 47, of Clearspring, Md., left the animals to die when he abandoned his Fulton County farm in February 2009.
Animal welfare advocates - who described the case as the biggest they'd seen - said they were pleased to learn someone was charged with the crime, but were disappointed that the penalties were so light.
By the time the hogs were found a month ago, "they were basically mummified," said Lt. Gregory M. Bacher of the Pennsylvania State Police.
A real estate agent inspecting the property on Nov. 8 discovered the cadavers in two large metal barns and called authorities, Bacher said.
"Because the carcasses were so far gone as far as being mummified, necropsy could not really provide any details of how they died," he said. " . . . We can't really say whether they starved."
The livestock might have died because of cold, heat, thirst or disease, or some combination.
"Some were very young and some were ready for sale," Bacher said.
Clark's estranged wife, Kerron, co-owned the farm but was not charged because he was the animals' caretaker, Bacher said.
If the animals had died because of non-owner's actions, felony charges could have been filed.
But because Daniel Lee Clark Sr. owned the hogs, lesser charges applied.
"I don't want to belittle the charges, but this is like getting 832 tickets," said Bacher. "Each one is a summary offense."
Tim Rickey, the ASPCA's senior director of field investigations and response, who helped lead the investigation into the hog deaths, said the evidence supports the number of charges.
"I am extremely pleased that the local district attorney is holding this guy accountable," said Rickey. "This is a very significant and large animal cruelty case in Pennsylvania and this sends a message."
Rickey said the charges should have been misdemeanors or felonies but accepted this was the best animal welfare advocates could expect under the law.
Clint Barkdoll, Clark's lawyer, said neither he nor his client has seen the charges and could not comment on them directly. Barkdoll said his client was "devastated by what happened" and that they have not determined how he will plead in the case.
"There is a very different version of these events and he looks forward to presenting his side of the case," he said.