Sugarcreek Auction Update
Sugarcreek Auction, located in the heart of Amish Country in Ohio, is one of the best known slaughter auctions in the United States. Every Friday, kill buyers gather and purchase approximately 95% of all horses that go through the sale. One of them is Leroy Baker, the owner of Sugarcreek Auction. Leroy Baker is a large scale kill buyer who has been in the horse slaughter business for many years. In 2012 alone, Baker purchased 8176 horses in Ohio.
He has an astonishing long list of violations of humane laws, and commercial transport of equines to slaughter regulations.He has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines as a result of these violations.
Our investigations and research reveal that Leroy Baker has been violating state and federal animal protection laws, as well as federal motor carrier safety regulations for many years. We have filed countless complaints and several cases were brought against Baker, based on our evidence. However in many severe cases authorities declined to file charges, even when overwhelming evidence had been obtained. In 2008, USDA Administrative Law Judge Jill Clifton, ordered Baker to pay a fine of $162,800.00 for multiple violations of the Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Regulations. In 2010, the United States District Court/Northern Ohio District/Eastern Division increased the original penalty to $172,621.66 and issued a court order to garnish his wages & assets. However, it remains unclear how much of this fine has actually been paid.
Thanks to our supporters responding to a call for action in 2011, we were able to pressure Baker and his auction to clean up their act (see AA newsletter). Your voice makes a difference and directly impacted Baker's practices! There is strength in numbers and you, our supporters, clearly proved that. Sugarcreek authorities received thousands of calls from Animals' Angels supporters which prompted them to finally take action.
A meeting was held with Baker, Animals' Angels, and town officials (see AA newsletter). It was agreed upon that certain improvements would be put into place immediately, all of which would greatly benefit the animals. Further, it was agreed upon that a Tuscarawas County Humane Officer would monitor the auction on a regular basis. We felt confident that these changes would have a positive effect on the animals passing through this auction.
Never one to trust promises made by Baker, or any other violator, we have conducted several follow up visits. At first we were pleased to see that certain improvements had indeed taken place. Horses were moved in smaller groups, pens were not overcrowded, and employees were not striking the horses in the face, which had previously been the norm. There were no extremely emaciated horses or those with bad injuries. Handling by the employees had improved and they seemed more professional in their demeanor.
Despite these promising improvements, we recently heard that the humane officer apparently stopped attending the auction regularly and that subsequently Sugarcreek had slipped back to its old ways. This news prompted our recent investigation on 4/5/13. We wanted to check the status of the auction to see if the rumors were true. We actually found the overall handling to be satisfactory. Some of the smaller pens were overcrowded.
Investigators found one horse, with sales tags attached, in a large pen with a severe leg injury that was open down to the bone. The bone was exposed and visible. Investigators immediately brought this fact to the attention of what appeared to be the barn manager and he promised to have the vet look at it. This was at 11:30 a.m. Shortly after, an Amish worker took the injured horse and put it in Baker's kill pen, all the way in the back of the barn. There he sat among cows and calves, desperately calling to his friend.
This injured horse had been brought in with another horse who was apparently his buddy. They had been standing together in the previous pen, with the uninjured horse protecting him from the other horses. After the injured horse was moved, they called to each other across the barn in a most heartbreaking manner. Our investigators witnessed the veterinarian draw blood for Coggins Testing from horses in the pen right next to the injured horse. However, he never even bothered to look at the injury. Once the sale was over, the injured horse remained in the pen at the back of the barn. His friend was sold to slaughter. At 5:15 p.m., the horse was still standing in the pen with his injury unattended.
Seeking aid for the horse, our investigators contacted the Sugarcreek Police Department and informed Chief of Police, Kevin Kaser, about the situation. Chief Kaser was very helpful and sent an officer out right away to investigate. When the officer arrived, he found the horse in the pen and took photographs. Witness testimony showed that the horse came from Michigan and had been brought to the auction in this horrific condition. At this point, the officer made the decision to euthanize the horse.
A few days later, Animals' Angels received the police report & pictures from Chief Kaser. Further he assured us that all the information had been provided to Assistant District Attorney, Ms. Miller. Animals' Angels provided additional video and information to the Tuscarawas County Prosecutor's Office, urging them to investigate the matter. Furthermore, we have forwarded the police report and our evidence to the Michigan authorities to hold the original owner of the horse responsible.
Since then, we have received confirmation from the Prosecutor's Office that the materials have been received and that the information was shared with the law director for the Village of Sugarcreek Doug Fruetschy. According to Ms Miller, Doug Fruetschy is now the one in charge for prosecuting a criminal misdemeanor violation. Given the local history of not pursuing such cases, we sincerely hope that he will do the right thing now by filing charges against the auction. The investigation is currently ongoing; we will keep you posted on any development. We know we can count on you in case another call for action is needed.
|Animals' Angels in the news in Mexico & Europe|
Animals' Angels has made the news once again - this time in Mexico. Our investigations were featured on national TV in Mexico when one of the largest stations, Milenio Television,aired a strong anti-horse slaughter piece. The reporter specifically targeted the imports from the US citing the rampant, ongoing cruelty exposed by Animals' Angels at the Southwest Livestock Auction in New Mexico, as well as the Eagle Pass and Presidio export pens in Texas.
This is the first time that this issue has garnered the nationwide attention that it deserves. We wondered what type of an effect it would have on the viewing audience and were gratified to hear that the feedback the station has received since the show aired has been incredible. According to the news anchor, it was one of their most successful shows within the last five years.
As many of you know, the Swiss TV show Kassensturz also aired an explosive horse slaughter expose in February utilizing footage and documentation from Animals' Angels. When the expose first aired, it triggered grocers to immediately remove horsemeat products from their shelves and caused international outrage, prompting investigations into the import of US horsemeat.
To keep up the momentum, all new evidence from our recent Sugarcreek investigation, as well as a recent Tennessee investigation (to be released soon), was immediately shared with the investigative news magazine. Kassensturz promptly aired a follow up to their original expose this past week. This follow up will put additional pressure on those making the decisions about importing horsemeat, as well as keeping this topic at the forefront of the primary consumer's mind.
As we continue to expose the stark realities of the horse slaughter business, more and more people are coming to realize the extent of the misrepresentations by the pro-slaughter factions. Armed with the truth, more people than ever before are taking a stand against the cruelty and horror of horse slaughter. We maintain that if we can end the demand, the business will stop as the supply goes away. The fight is far from over. Animals' Angels will not stop fighting until horse slaughter, and the export of horses for slaughter, is banned in the United States.
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