How to Investigate Animal Cruelty in NY State – A Manual of Procedures

Example 17 – Animal Hoarder: Extremely Large Number of Animals

The Complaint

A complainant sent a local humane agency a well-documented, written complaint that a large number of animals being kept at a private “shelter” in a farm setting were living in deplorable conditions. The complainant stated that hundreds of animals of various types were harbored at the farm, including dogs, cats, sheep, goats, horses, pigs, chickens, ducks, and peacocks.

The complainant further stated that the animals were starving, as well as suffering from mange and other ailments. There had been complaints about the “shelter” in the past, but no successful investigations were undertaken.

The Response

  1. Based on the well-documented complaint and a phone conversation with the complainant, the humane agency contacted the sheriff’s department, and both agencies contacted the district attorney’s office.
  2. Because of the history of complaints about the “shelter,” the district attorney’s office assigned an undercover investigator to work there.
  3. The investigator’s report corroborated the statements made in the complaint
  4. Based on the investigator’s report and the sworn statement from the complainant, the humane society applied for a search warrant and contacted the sheriff’s department. A date was agreed upon to execute the warrant.
  5. The humane society made arrangements with various animal organizations, veterinarians, and volunteers to be present on the day the search warrant was to be executed by the sheriff’s department.
  6. On the agreed upon day, the sheriff’s department assembled the various humane societies at the edge of the property.
  7. The sheriff’s department entered the property. The officers issued the owner an appearance ticket, and he was required to stay away from the property while the rescue team entered the property.
  8. The humane society, a team of veterinarians, the animal organizations and volunteers entered the property to minister to the animals.
  9. The animals were identified and photographed. See the “Executing the Search Warrant in An Animal Hoarder Case” discussion in the “Animal Hoarder” discussion in this Chapter and the “Photographic Evidence” discussion in Chapter 1, “Be Prepared Ahead of Time.”
  10. The animals who were deemed to be not savable were euthanized; the others were provided with initial veterinary treatment on the premises.
  11. It took several days to tend to all the animals. When the humane society staff, veterinarians, and volunteers left in the evening, sheriff’s deputies remained on the property overnight, so the chain of evidence would not be broken and another search warrant did not have to be obtained.
  12. The execution of the search warrant was completed in a few days. Though numerous animals had to be euthanized, a large number of animals had to remain on the property because there were no quarters large enough to hold them. The humane society and the sheriff’s department met with the DA to decide how to care for the animals. Because it was decided that the owner had the funds to pay for feed and veterinary care, the decision was made to impound the animals on the property and an order to impound the animals was obtained from the judge.
  13. The court instructed the owner to provide food and veterinary care. The court assigned the humane society the responsibility of closely monitoring the condition of the animals to ensure that they were cared for until the case was adjudicated.
  14. The humane agency monitored the feeding of the animals and hired its own veterinarian to administer the various treatments the animals needed to regain their health.
  15. The humane agency also hired a security firm to monitor the property at night to prevent the unauthorized removal of animals from the premises. (After the decision was made to impound the animals on the property, and the humane agency was put in charge of monitoring the animals, the sheriff’s department no longer remained on the property.)

Charges Brought

Because of the numbers of animals involved, and the inability to find an impartial jury in the township where the case occurred, the case went to a grand jury which indicted the farm owner on numerous counts of violating Article 26 Section 353 of the Agriculture & Markets Law. A plea bargain was agreed to in the criminal case, and the humane agency was granted custody of the animals. In addition, the Attorney General brought a civil action which stripped the “shelter” of its nonprofit status and resulted in its closure; it further specified that the shelter owner could never operate a non-profit shelter again anywhere.

Supporting Documents Follow