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Entries in Animal Cruelty (7)

Thursday
Jun282012

Texas Man Faces Animal Cruelty Charge for Eating Dog While High

McLennan County Sheriff's Department(WACO, Texas) -- A Texas man faces a felony charge after he allegedly bit, killed and ate a housemate's pet dog while high on the synthetic drug "spice."

The alleged attack is the latest in the series of violent and bizarre incidents linked to spice, which mimics the effects of marijuana, and bath salts, which mimics cocaine.

Michael Daniel, 22, allegedly smoked spice in his Waco, Texas, home before he assaulted his housemates and then ran out of the house into his yard, where he began crawling around on his hands and knees.  He barked and growled at a neighbor and chased him back into his home.

Daniel then allegedly took his housemate's dog, a medium-sized spaniel mix, out onto the house's porch.  He allegedly beat and strangled the dog, according to Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton, and then began chewing "hunks of flesh" from the animal.

Daniel's housemates called police and requested emergency assistance, saying Daniel was "going crazy."  Officers arrived at the house to find Daniel sitting on the porch with "blood and fur around his mouth" and with the dead dog lying in his lap, Swanton said.

Daniel, who police say told his housemates he was "on a bad trip" just before the alleged rampage on June 14, was charged on Monday with cruelty to a non-livestock animal.

The incident in Waco follows a series of bizarre attacks by people allegedly high on synthetic drugs, including a Glendale, Calif., man striking a 77-year-old woman with a shovel last week, and a man in Milton, Fla., biting into the hood of a police cruiser in February.

Spice and related products have often been sold as incense in packaging that says the contents are not to be ingested, but authorities say they are frequently used by consumers to mimic the effects of marijuana and other drugs.

In a 20/20 investigation that aired in 2011, ABC News found that spice and bath salts were being sold to teenagers across the country with little to no oversight, and many of those young users were showing up at drug treatment centers.

"They think they're dying," Louisiana Poison Control Center Director Dr. Mark Ryan told ABC News.  "They have extreme paranoia.  They're having hallucinations.  They see things, they hear things, monsters, demons, aliens."

Since then, the government has fought to block the sale and usage of synthetic drugs.

Last December, the House of Representatives voted to add 41 chemical compounds used to make spice and bath salts to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, making them illegal to manufacture or dispense.

Last week, a similar bill passed the Senate that would criminalize 26 of those compounds, stripping off 15 of the 17 compounds that are used to make bath salts.

And according to authorities, manufacturers of synthetic drugs are constantly trying to develop new compounds that don't fall under the umbrella banned by state or federal law, making drugs particularly dangerous for users who don't know what they are going to get.

"When people use this, they may use it one time and the next time it's a totally different chemical substance," Swanton said.

According to Dr. Ryan, it's that lack of "quality control" that makes the drugs particularly risky, since some batches might affect the brain's chemistry at a more dangerous level.

"When someone buys these products, they don't know exactly what ingredient they may be getting and they don't know the amount of the substance that's in there," Ryan said.  "So somebody may get one batch and get five mg, someone may buy the product around the corner and get 2,000 mg."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun012012

Whistleblower Who Alleged Horse 'Torture' Threatened with Expulsion

Humane Society of the United States(NEW YORK) -- After speaking out to ABC News about what he called "torture for the sake of a blue ribbon" in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, the director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States is facing possible expulsion from the board of the sport's breeders association.

Keith Dane has been told to appear before the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association (TWHBEA) enforcement committee to answer a complaint filed against him by a fellow association member in the wake of the ABC News' Nightline investigation.  Dane is a Tennessee Walking Horse owner and trainer and a TWHBEA board member.

The member who filed the complaint, Kathy Zeis, did not respond to requests for comment.

Marty Irby, president of the TWHBEA, said Zeis paid an undisclosed fee to file the complaint, but would not explain the nature of the grievance.

Dane's hearing is scheduled for June 28. 

"If the hearing goes forward, I intend to fully respond to and defend against the complaint," Dane told ABC News.

"It is shocking that anyone within this industry would even suggest that there be retaliatory or disciplinary action against a Humane Society official and horseman who blew the whistle on Jackie McConnell, who has now pled guilty to felony charges of horse abuse," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.  "It suggests that there's still an attitude within the fraternity that anyone who breaks the code of silence on horse soring must be excommunicated.  These people have it backwards, and they also need some lessons in crisis management."

Undercover video made by an investigator for the Humane Society documented the cruelty of one of the sport's leading trainers, Jackie McConnell, who has since been banned for life by the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration (the sport's most high-profile championship).  The video showed McConnell and his employees beating horses with wooden sticks, shocking them with electric cattle prods, and "soring" (applying caustic chemicals to the ankles of the horses) -- techniques apparently employed to make the horses produce the high-stepping gait that wins championships in the Tennessee Walking Horse world.

McConnell, 60, also pleaded guilty to one federal count related to a violation of the Horse Protection Act.

Since the Nightline investigation, the nature of the sport has come under intense criticism, with calls to clean up an industry that insiders say has long known about the prevalent use of illegal, abusive training techniques.

"The fact is that 'soring,' the technique of using chemicals and chains to give walking horses the exaggerated gait or "big lick" to win championships, was used for years -- with industry leaders closing their eyes to keep the almighty dollar flowing," an editorial in the local Murfreesboro Daily News said this week.

The Tennessean also reported that eight of the last 10 "Trainers of the Year," as awarded by the Walking Horse Trainers' Association, have been suspended for soring at least once in their careers.

"It's sort of a world unto its own and there are a lot of well-kept secrets in it," Dane told ABC News.  "All too often, you have to cheat to win in this sport."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May222012

Accused Tennessee Show Horse Abuser Pleads Guilty

ABC News(CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.) -- One of the leading trainers in the famed Tennessee Walking Horse industry admitted Tuesday that he abused horses under his care to enhance their performance, the latest step in a case that has renewed controversy over the treatment of animals in the sport.

Jackie McConnell, 60, pleaded guilty to one federal count related to the conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act, a week after an ABC News Nightline investigation aired undercover video made by the Humane Society of the United States that showed McConnell and his employees beating horses with wooden sticks and shocking them with electric cattle prods.

In another scene, McConnell oversees his employees as they apply caustic chemicals to the ankles of the horses and then wrap them with plastic wrap so the chemicals eat into the skin.

The alleged torture was apparently employed to make the horses produce the high-stepping gait that wins championships in the Tennessee Walking Horse world.

"That creates intense pain and then the ankles are wrapped with large metal chains so the horses flinch, or raise their feet even higher," said Keith Dane of the Humane Society.

In addition, the application of the harmful chemicals, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee said McConnell also "took steps to camouflage the damage to the horses by instructing others to apply magic markers and other masking devices to the horses' legs prior to inspection."

He had been charged with 52 counts in violation of the Horse Protection Act, but pleaded guilty to only one in a plea agreement with prosecutors. Two of his stable hands, John Mays and Joseph Abernathy, also pleaded guilty to one count and face up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine. Another employee and co-defendant, Jeff Dockery, has yet to enter a plea.

McConnell faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced in September.

Last week, ABC News approached McConnell outside his home about the abuse allegations, but he declined to comment.

After the undercover video made by the Humane Society came to light, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General and FBI then followed up with their own investigation at McConnell's farm in Collierville, Tennessee, and at a temporary stable closer to the location of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration exhibition in Shelbyville.

Last week, ABC News found all but one horse had been removed from McConnell's Collierville stable.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May172012

Video Reveals Torture of Horses Trained to Win Championships

Humane Society of the United States(NEW YORK) -- Large numbers of the famed Tennessee Walking Horses have been tortured and beaten in order to make them produce the high-stepping gait that wins championships, an ABC News investigation has found.

"All too often, you have to cheat to win in this sport," said Keith Dane of the Humane Society of the United States.

In the most recent example, an undercover video made by an investigator for the Humane Society, documents the cruelty of one of the sport's leading trainers, Jackie McConnell of Collierville, Tenn.

The video led to a federal grand jury indictment of McConnell and was seen publicly for the first time Wednesday night on the ABC News program Nightline.

The tape shows McConnell and his stable hands beating horses with wooden sticks and using electric cattle prods on them as part of a training protocol to make them lift their feet in the pronounced gait judges like to see.

In another scene, McConnell oversees his hands as they apply caustic chemicals to the ankles of the horses and then wrap them with plastic wrap so the chemicals eat into the skin.

"That creates intense pain and then the ankles are wrapped with large metal chains so the horses flinch, or raise their feet even higher," said Dane of the Humane Society.

McConnell is expected to enter a guilty plea to one count, according to his lawyers.

He declined to comment, or apologize for his acts, when approached by ABC News this week outside his home.

Leaders of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry maintain that such brutality is rare and that trainers do not have to cheat to win championships, which can add millions of dollars to the value of horses.

"They do not have to cheat to win," said Dr. Steve Mullins of the group called SHOW, which oversees inspections of horses before major events.  "You don't have to do this kind of junk to win. ... And we are terribly against this stuff."

The industry group maintains that the vast majority of horses are not subjected to the cruel practice of "soring."

But a random inspection by the agents of the Department of Agriculture at last year's annual championship found that 52 of 52 horses tested positive for some sort of foreign substance around front hooves, either to cause pain or to hide it.

Dr. Mullins told ABC News there could be innocent explanations for some of the foreign substances found by the inspectors. 

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb162012

Butterball Workers Arrested on Animal Cruelty Charges

Mercy for Animals(WASHINGTON) -- Six workers at a Butterball turkey farm in North Carolina face criminal charges after an undercover video revealed alleged animal abuse, and a state employee who tipped off Butterball before a police raid on the farm has pled guilty to obstruction of justice.

Three workers have been arrested, according to Hoke County officials. Terry Johnson has been charged with misdemeanor cruelty to animals, Ruben Mendoza has been charged with animal cruelty and felony identity theft, and Jose Garcia has been charged with felony identity theft. Three other workers are being sought on animal cruelty charges.

Mercy for Animals, the animal rights group that shot the undercover video, said there had been no insider information about abuse at the facility before the tape was made. "Unfortunately, every time we send an investigator they emerge with shocking evidence of animal abuse," said MFA executive director Nathan Runkle.

"Butterball allowed a culture of cruelty and abuse to fester at its company-owned factory farms," alleged Runkle. "Before ending up in restaurants and grocery stores, turkeys killed for Butterball are routinely crowded into filthy warehouses, neglected to die from infected, bloody wounds, and thrown, kicked, and beaten by factory farm workers."

Hoke County, North Carolina Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said three other workers are also being sought on at a Butterball turkey farm days before police raided the facility searching for animal abuse has pled guilty to obstructing justice and has been suspended from her position without pay.

In addition, Dr. Sarah Mason, a veterinarian at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, was suspended from her job starting Monday, and was sentenced to 45 days in the Hoke County jail after pleading guilty to obstructing justice and obstructing a public officer. Mason admitted calling a friend who worked at Butterball prior to the raid. Her sentence was suspended and she will be on unsupervised probation, but she will be required to take two ethics courses.

Hoke County detectives raided the Butterball turkey farm on Dec. 28 after seeing hidden camera video shot by Mercy for Animals (MFA). An MFA activist had worked undercover at the farm for three weeks and documented what the group called "acts of violence and severe neglect." In the video, workers can be seen kicking and stomping on turkeys, as well as dragging them by their wings and necks. The video also shows injured birds with open wounds and exposed flesh. During the December raid, officials inspected 2,800 turkeys, seizing 28 and euthanizing four.

Officials later raised questions about phone calls between government officials and Butterball days before the raid. They charged that Dr. Mason, the Director of Animal Health Programs at the Agriculture Department, had called a Butterball veterinarian on Dec. 23 and allegedly informed him that there was an investigation into the farm. Details of the pending raid, according to prosecutors at the Hoke County District Attorney's office, were supposed to be, "treated as confidential, and should not be disclosed."

Though she initially denied talking to the Butterball employee, Dr. Mason later admitted telling him about the existence of the Mercy for Animals video showing alleged abuse, and telling him that they video had been given to a county prosecutor.

It is vital that law enforcement be able to rely on other government agencies and their employees to safeguard confidential information that must be shared during a criminal investigation," said Hoke County District Attorney Kristy Newton. "It is unfortunate that Dr. Mason chose to breach the level of trust that her fellow public officials and the people of North Carolina placed in her when she released confidential information that could have potentially undermined an on-going criminal investigation and then lied to police about her conduct.

After conducting an internal investigation, officials at the Agriculture Department suspended Dr. Mason for two weeks without pay. "The Department...found that Dr. Mason did not at first answer truthfully when she was interviewed on Jan. 5, 2012 by Hoke County authorities about a leak of information about their investigation," said the Agriculture Department in a statement. "We were aware that charges could be brought against Dr. Mason as a result of her actions."

But the department's statement also said that Dr. Mason had not explicitly told anyone at Butterball that there was a criminal investigation in progress, "nor was she aware or did she tell anyone that there was going to be a search warrant served at any of their facilities."

In a statement issued last month through her attorney, Dr. Mason said her rationale for contacting the Butterball veterinarian -- a longtime personal friend -- was to "immediately curtail" any animal abuse taking place. In addition, Mason stated, "I deeply regret the actions I have taken have reflected poorly on the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services." She stated she recognized the "seriousness of the situation."

Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals, the group that recorded the undercover video, said, "It is deeply troubling that a governmental agency that is entrusted with monitoring and overseeing agriculture and food production is so corrupt that it's in bed with the very corporate interests that were documented abusing and neglecting animals. The fox apparently is guarding the henhouse."

Butterball issued a statement Wednesday saying four employees had been fired and two suspended. "As the result of Butterball's own internal investigation into this matter, Butterball terminated four employees last month due to their failure to comply with the company's animal care and well-being standards," said the statement. "Butterball understands that three of these former associates have been charged with animal cruelty today. In addition, Butterball understands that two current Butterball associates have been charged with animal cruelty. Butterball has immediately suspended these two current associates pending final disciplinary action."

Butterball, which accounts for 20 percent of total turkey production in the U.S., has said it was "shocked" by the undercover video, is taking the animal cruelty investigation seriously, and has a, "zero tolerance policy for any mistreatment of our birds." The company said that as a result of an internal investigation, it is evaluating its animal welfare policies, and has fired "several associates for failure to follow Butterball animal care and well-being policies."

"We are taking steps to help ensure that all new and existing associates have a clear understanding of our animal well-being policies," said Rod Brenneman, president and CEO of Butterball. "In addition to requiring all associates to sign an animal well-being agreement to report abuse immediately, we are performing an intense review across all company operations."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec022011

American Kennel Club Judge Accused of Animal Cruelty, Neglect

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- An American Kennel Club judge could be facing charges of 14 counts of animal cruelty after more than 60 dogs were seized from her home, police said on Thursday.

Authorities in Kings County, Wash., say they could bring charges against Margie Hamilton as early as next week.  The King's County Sheriff's Department seized 62 dogs from her home, 15 of which had to be euthanized because they were so ill.

The investigation was sparked by a video sent anonymously to Pasado's Safe Haven, an animal rescue group.  The rescue group conducted its own investigation first, finding 38 additional dogs that they believe belonged to Hamilton at a different location. Members then turned over what they found to authorities.

"We were shocked to find out her status in the animal world.  She spent decades in the animal world, not only as an AKC judge but involved in many dog groups.  So it's shocking to see this kind of neglect coming from a person who has so much experience in the animal world," said Amber Chenoweth, spokeswoman for Pasado's.

Chenoweth said the dogs were living in small kennels, stacked up on top of one another, and filled with feces and urine.  The dogs were mainly Pomeranians, Chihuahas and Japanese Chins, she said.

"She has owned some of the top Chihuahuas in the world.  I wonder if the dogs stuffed in the basement were past show dogs that were not making money anymore," she said.

All three breeds are listed on the AKC website as breeds that Hamilton is approved to judge in dog shows.

The surviving dogs have been placed with an animal sanctuary and are up for adoption.

Hamilton, of Issaquah, Wash., said on the advice of her attorney that she would not comment on the investigation while it was ongoing. She did say there was "a great deal to the story," and she looks forward to commenting when the legal process is finished.

Hamilton is listed on the AKC website as having judged dog shows in Washington, Utah, and California in past years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul192011

Eagles Quarterback Michael Vick Endorses Animal Cruelty Legislation

Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On Capitol Hill Tuesday morning, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick endorsed new legislation that would make both observing and enabling a minor to watch animal fighting events criminal offenses.

Congress is the latest stop on Vick’s redemption tour, begun in the wake of his 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to dogfighting charges in 2007.

“Throughout my time in prison, I told myself that I wanted to be a part of the solution, not the problem,” Vick said in a hushed voice. “Dog fighting is inhumane, it's illegal, it's a federal felony and it's a felony in every state now.  We have an opportunity to create meaningful change.”

Though it was Vick’s first trip supporting legislation in Washington, D.C., it was not the first time his name had been thrown around the Capitol.

At the height of Vick’s infamy in 2007, then-Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd compared dogfighters to the most serious of criminals on the Senate floor.

Back then, Byrd “declared that he has seen one execution in his life -- a man put to death in the electric chair. "It’s not a beautiful thing," he said. "I could say I could witness another one if it involves (long pause) this cruel, sadistic, cannibalistic, business of training these vulnerable creatures to kill.’"

Tuesday’s reception of Vick was much warmer. Congressman Jim Moran, D-Va., complimented Vick as being in “tremendous shape.”

“This is a story of redemption; it's a story of leadership,” Moran said. “It's a story of deciding to do good and making a really substantive, consequential difference in the lives of a whole lot of people and certainly among animals that otherwise would be mistreated. Michael's leading the way to get these animals adopted and treated properly.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio