An undercover video surfaced this week, showing events at a livestock auction in California. The Los Angeles-based Mercy for Animals (MFA) shot the footage at the Ontario Livestock Sales in San Bernardino County.
In the video, employees are shown beating, kicking and tossing animals, including sheep, goats, cows, pigs and other that are headed for auction. Injured and sick animals appear to be neglected. Prosecutors with the San Bernardino County district attorney's office have filed 21 misdemeanor animal abuse charges against the owner, identified as Horacio Santorsola, 73, and seven employees following further investigation, reports the Associated Press.
Santorsola contends the case was exaggerated. He has owned the business for 18 years and had not been cited once.
The video reportedly was taken earlier this year over a seven-week period, according to MFA. Prosecutors consulted veterinarians to determine which actions crossed the line into criminal behavior.
A July 20 court date has been set. If convicted, the defendants face the potential of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Officials with the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) has reviewed the video and reported that they found “much of the behavior demonstrated by Ontario market management and employees to the animals under their care clearly breaches LMA s code of accepted animal handling practices at livestock market facilities.”
LMA points out that Ontario Livestock Sales is an independent market, and not a member of LMA or the California Livestock Auction Markets Association (CLMA).
“LMA has worked tirelessly for many years to educate member and non-member markets regarding proper animal handling techniques and animal care,” according to an association statement. LMA provides animal handling education and training materials, regular ongoing animal handling audits as well as extensive outreach by LMA staff.
“Livestock auction markets are dedicated to assuring the well-being of the animals sold through their facilities. As temporary stewards of the animals consigned to our markets, we have a duty and responsibility to assure that healthy animals remain healthy, and weak and injured animals are properly handled and euthanized if necessary,” said David Macedo, LMA president and a California market operator. “Ontario Livestock Sales is neither representative of the standard of care that livestock auctions typically provide nor commonplace in our industry, as stated by a Mercy for Animals spokesperson.”
CLAMA President Cindy Tews urged her fellow market operators to renew their commitment to proper handling of livestock at markets throughout the United States. “We must continue to strive to do the right thing for the animals under our care, because it is the right thing to do,” she said.
The Ontario Livestock Sales’ website identifies the family-owned business as located 40 miles east of Los Angeles. The weekly auctions include horses, cattle, goats, hogs and exotic animals. The facility was founded in 1936.