For more than 832 animals who died a horrific and lonely death in Fulton County, Pennsylvania, justice may be near. Daniel Clark, the farm owner who allegedly abandoned hundreds of pigs dependent on him for their very survival, has been charged with 832 counts of animal cruelty. To all who took action by contacting the district attorney and urging prosecution, we thank you for speaking up and being these pigs’ voice.
According to the criminal complaint, which was filed by Pennsylvania State Police last Thursday, Clark was the sole caretaker responsible for the pigs on his Fulton County property, but he “le[ft] them to die” without adequate food, water or shelter. The pigs were likely subjected to freezing temperatures while confined in a barn with no means of escape and no one to help them. Authorities believe that Clark may have left the property as early as February 2009, though the animals' bodies were left undiscovered until just last month.
Because the animals were found in varying states of decay, it was difficult for authorities to assess the magnitude of this tragedy. Early reports estimated the number of deceased pigs at 925 to 1000. Later reports indicated the number may have been nearer to 500. Several of the bodies were so decomposed that authorities were unable to determine some of the animals’ species, though investigators suspect at least six of the 832 animals who perished may have been calves.
Though we are encouraged that authorities are taking this case seriously by holding Clark responsible, whether justice will be truly served is yet to be seen. Under Pennsylvania law, each of the 832 counts of cruelty carries a minimum fine of only $50, highlighting how unfairly farm animals can be treated in a society that exploits them for food and all too often fails to recognize them as living, feeling individuals. The maximum sentence for each animal cruelty count, however, is up to $750 and 90 days in jail and we remain hopeful that maximum allowable penalties will be enforced.
At best, the resolution of this heartbreaking case of unconscionable cruelty will stand as a reminder that the public cares about farm animals and demands that they be treated with compassion and respect. We will continue to follow this case, taking action on the animals’ behalf where possible, and we will keep you updated.