Livestock house video draws animal cruelty charges

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SANTA ANA, Calif. –  Prosecutors have filed animal cruelty charges against the owner and seven employees at a Southern California livestock auction house after undercover video shot by an animal rights group showed workers kicking, hitting and tossing the animals as they were readied for sale.

The grainy video, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press and shot by the Los Angeles-based group Mercy for Animals, shows workers at Ontario Livestock Sales in Ontario, Calif., kicking and stomping on pigs to get them to move through a narrow chute, hitting emus with a baton and slinging baby goats by the neck and hind legs. In one shot, two workers drag a sick sheep that can’t walk by its ears and heave it into the back of a van.

Prosecutors have filed a total of 21 misdemeanor counts against the owner, Horacio Santorsola, and seven employees after conducting further investigation with the help of the Inland Valley Humane Society, said Reza Daghbandan, a prosecutor with the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office.

The defendants, who are not in custody, have a July 20 court date and face a maximum of a year in county jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted, he said.

Santorsola, 73, said the case was exaggerated and he and his employees had done nothing wrong.

He has not been cited once in the 18 years he’s owned the business, he said, and grabbing animals by their necks and legs is necessary because they are not tame.

“I think it’s a bunch of crap,” Santorsola said. “How are you going to pick them up? They don’t have a leash. They run, believe me, they do run.”

The video was taken earlier this year over a seven-week period by an undercover investigator using a buttonhole camera, said Matt Rice, director of investigations at Mercy for Animals.

Prosecutors relied on the help of veterinarians to determine which actions crossed the line into criminal behavior, Daghbandan said.

“This isn’t the same standard of care as a house pet would get … but we felt comfortable that these instances went too far,” he said.

Animal handling experts who reviewed the footage called the treatment of the animals, which include emus, pigs, goats, sheep and cows, “brutally improper.”

“If they were to do this to a companion animal like a dog or a cat, everyone would jump up in outrage,” said Holly Cheever, a veterinarian and expert witness in animal cruelty cases who is also vice president of New York State Humane Association.

Cheever said in one shot, a cow appears to be suffering from a prolapsed uterus and is bleeding.

“Even food animals are supposed to be given proper care and protection from abuse and this is very clear cut abuse,” she said. “The dragging of the downed animals, the tossing of the baby animals onto the floor, leaving them gasping and dying: It’s hard to choose any one aspect because it’s pretty unpleasant from beginning to end.”

A website for Ontario Livestock Sales says the family-owned business 40 miles east of Los Angeles holds auctions every Tuesday and handles horses, cattle, goats, hogs and exotic animals. The facility, which was founded in 1936, sells 1,000 to 1,300 animals every week, according to its website.

Mercy for Animals has filmed at livestock facilities around the U.S., including footage at a poultry farm that last year led Target and McDonald’s to drop their egg supplier after undercover footage showed hens packed into cramped cages, male chicks being tossed into plastic bags to suffocate and workers cutting off the tips of chicks’ beaks.

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Proposed legislation would ban elephant bullhooks

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TORONTO – Zoocheck has thrown its support behind proposed provincial legislation that would ban the use of bullhooks and other “weapons” on elephants in Ontario.

Legislation introduced at Queen’s Park is designed to protect circus elephants, says Liberal MPP Lorenzo Berardinetti. (QMI Agency photo)

The bill, if passed, could impact some circuses and animal facilities.

Julie Woodyer, campaigns director for Zoocheck Canada Inc., said bullhooks are not found at the Toronto Zoo but circuses make use of the sharp devices to force elephants to perform tricks.

“This is used to beat elephants and they’ll use it to hook elephants in the most sensitive parts of their bodies, behind their ears and under their legs,” Woodyer said. “It is a tool of discipline and it is based on the animals having fear of the tool.”

If it were used as a guide, as some elephant handlers claim, than why isn’t it made of foam, she said.

Progressive zoos use positive reinforcement to encourage the elephants to carry out activities such as lifting their foot to inspect for infection, she said.

Bill 69, introduced by Liberal MPP Lorenzo Berardinetti would prevent elephant handlers from using electric prods, bullhooks or similar devices to “shock, poke, strike, hit, stab, pierce or pinch the skin of an elephant.”

The use of chains and ropes to restrain elephants would also be severely curtailed.

Berardinetti said elephants are one of the few animals that has self awareness.

“They’re extremely intelligent and shouldn’t be in captivity, especially not in circuses because they’re forced to do stuff that they don’t want to do,” he said.

The bill says these types of elephant handling practices date back hundreds if not thousands of years and are used to dominate an elephant by breaking its spirit.

“Modern, progressive zoos around the world have stopped using fear or dominance-based training of elephants in favour of safer, more humane systems, such as protected contact management systems,” the bill says.

Ringling Brothers Circus, which has been the focus of animal rights campaigns in the U.S., says on its website that it has the most “pampered pachyderms” in the world.

“Our training methods are based on reinforcement in the form of food rewards and words of praise. Verbal or physical abuse and the withholding of food or water are strictly prohibited,” the circus says.

Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur said she will look at the bill to assess its possible impact.

“But the protection of animals is very serious, we take it very serious, and there’s no place in Ontario for any cruelty to animals,” Meilleur said.

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Save Yupi – Polar Bear living in Mexican Zoo

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Yupi is a female polar bear who was brought to the Morelia Zoo in Mexico in 1992 at the age of 3 months. She came from Alaska as an orphaned cub. It’s possible her mother was shot and killed by a hunter or by a resident who thought she was coming too close.

Upon arrival at the Mexican zoo, Yupi was placed in an old grizzly bear pen. This is the pen that she still lives in today, and Yupi is now 18 years old. However, 18 years is not old for a polar bear, who on average live between 25 to 30 years.
Since Mexico is located in the southern portion of North America, and Morelia is located in the central part of Mexico, Yupi is exposed to a tropical climate year-round, meaning that temperatures remain high throughout the year. This is dramatically different from what Yupi would experience in her native Alaska, where below freezing winters and cooler summers are the norm. Yupi is not biologically prepared to live in Mexico.

Polar bears have evolved to occupy a narrow ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, moving across snow, ice, open water, and hunting.

All polar bears have basic physical and physiological requirements. They require very cold climate, large spaces, complex natural terrain, and complexity, choice, and control in their daily lives.

Yupi’s life at the Morelia Zoo is deficient in many respects. She spends her time in a tiny and barren enclosure and is forced to live in a tropical climate not at all appropriate for polar bears. The surface of her enclosure is composed entirely of hard concrete, and she has no soft surfaces to walk on or lie in. Additionally, Yupi is locked up in her tiny holding pen for approximately 17 hours each day. This pen is barren, hard, damp, and does not allow in any natural light. Under no circumstances should Yupi be confined in this space for the majority of each day.

The Morelia Zoo claims that Yupi is a valuable asset to their live collection and a showcase animal that is well-liked by members of the public. This seems bizarre considering the very limited viewing opportunities provided to visitors who come to see Yupi.

But there is hope for Yupi. A polar bear rehabilitation centre in northern Ontario is willing to give Yupi a permanant home if the Zoo agrees to let her go. Yupi is still young and can have many good years ahead of her if the Morelia Zoo allows her to be moved to a more appropriate climate and facility that is better suited for polar bears.

Please sign the petition:-

via Save Yupi.

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