Home The News Farm owner won't face animal abuse charges

Tuesday, July 6, 2010  09:13 AM

By Holly Zachariah

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2010/07/06/cow-abuse-charges.html?sid=101

MARYSVILLE, Ohio -- A Union County grand jury has decided the owner of a Union County dairy farm caught in an abuse scandal should not face criminal charges.

A grand jury met last week and heard testimony from an Ohio Department of Agriculture veterinarian, the Union County Humane Society and others before deciding that dairy farmer Gary Conklin did nothing criminal, according to Union County Prosecutor David Phillips.

Jurors saw hours of video tape recorded by an undercover employee of the animal-rights group, Mercy For Animals, not just the few minutes that group posted on YouTube, Phillips said.

On the tape, Conklin employee Billy Joe Gregg is seen viciously beating and abusing cows and calves at the Plain City farm. Gregg has since been fired. He has been charged with 12 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and faces a felony weapons charge. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Also on the tape, Conklin is shown kicking a cow that is lying down.

Phillips said the portion of the tape shown publicly was spliced together and that Conklin's behavior was taken out of context. The Union County sheriff's office said it had four veterinarians with experience in large-animal care review the tape.

"In context, Mr. Conklin's actions were entirely appropriate," Phillips wrote in a news release this morning. "The veterinarians told law enforcement that cows who remain down are at risk of injury or death. A cow's muscles may atrophy. Once that happens, the cow may never get up and may suffer or die."

In an e-mailed statement, Gary Conklin called the announcement bittersweet.

"It is gratifying that the grand jury found no reason to bring any charges against our farm, family members or current employees," he wrote. "However, we remain extraordinarily saddened by the willful abuse of animals on our farm by one of our former employees."

He said this has been "a horrible time for the Conklin family" and that Gregg's abuse did not reflect the farm's commitment to animal care. He said he hopes to put the matter behind him, and continue to run the fourth-generation cattle-sales business along Rt. 42.

Jurors also reviewed the actions of another Conklin employee as well as the Mercy for Animals investigator, who admitted to poking animals with pitchforks to maintain his cover, and they found nothing that merited criminal charges, Phillips said.

The criminal investigation isn't over, however. Phillips said threats of violence and murder made by animal-rights activists against the Conklins are still under review and information may be forwarded to the U.S. Attorney's Office for possible charges under the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

Daniel Hauff, director of investigations for Mercy For Animals, said he could not comment until he had seen the prosecutor's office news release.

 
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