Owners of Stanislaus County's A&L Poultry Sued After 50,000 Egg-Laying Hens Left to Starve to Death
Animal Legal Defense Fund Represents Farmed Animal Sanctuaries Who Rescued Almost 4,500 Birds
For immediate release
Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Kim Sturla, Animal Place
Meredith Turner, Farm Sanctuary
Christine Morrissey, Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary
August 21, 2012
Statement on Demurrer and Motion to Strike Rulings
Earlier this year, two Stanislaus County egg farmers abandoned 50,000 hens to die of starvation in one of most shocking displays of animal cruelty in California history. In May, Animal Place, Farm Sanctuary, and Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, the farmed animal sanctuaries that rescued the surviving hens, filed a lawsuit against the farmers, represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Schiff Hardin, seeking recognition of the interests of the hens, and to hold the farmers responsible for their heinous disregard of the hens’ welfare.
On August 20, the Stanislaus County Superior Court allowed the case to move forward over the strong objections of the defendants—the owners of A&L Poultry, where the hens were left to die—who sought to have the case dismissed. The court ruled that the sanctuaries have correctly asserted their right to place the financial burden of the hens’ rescue and rehabilitation where it belongs—on the individuals who caused the suffering, and who were spared by the sanctuaries of the expense of cleaning up the mess that they created.
The court also agreed with the sanctuaries that this kind of egregious act merits the potential for additional punishment based on the defendants’ cruel treatment of the hens, even though the defendants were the hens’ owners at the time of the cruelty.
The court also gave the sanctuaries an opportunity to redraft two other legal claims they had brought, which would establish their right to sue the defendants and obtain further justice for the victims of this horrible act of cruelty.
May 17. 2012
Modesto, Calif.—This morning, three non-profit animal sanctuaries—Animal Place, Farm Sanctuary, and Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary—filed a complaint in the Stanislaus County Superior Court, seeking justice for 50,000 hens who were abandoned this past February by the owners of A&L Poultry, a Turlock egg production facility. The sanctuaries are represented by attorneys at the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and Schiff Hardin.
When the birds were discovered after two long weeks, the plaintiffs responded to A&L Poultry’s shocking and illegal cruelty by rescuing almost 4,500 surviving hens, who were all starved and severely dehydrated—and, in so doing, shouldered the egg producer’s legal duty to care for their animals. Today’s lawsuit seeks to place responsibility on the guilty parties who caused the suffering of tens of thousands of helpless animals.
The case centers on California’s largest-ever rescue of farmed animals. The hens were crammed into cages so small that they could not stretch their wings. Hens struggling to survive intermingled with the 20,000 hens who had already perished. Dozens of chickens had fallen out of their cages and struggled to avoid drowning in the giant manure pits below the buildings. Many were so sick that they could not stand, hold up their heads, or eat and drink. The sanctuaries provided emergency care to the emaciated and suffering animals, and have been nursing them back to health.
“After 48 hours of camping outside of the egg farm, Animal Place took in 4,100 of the starving hens to our two sanctuaries,” stated Kim Sturla, Animal Place’s executive director. “The highlight of Animal Place’s efforts is watching these hens experience daylight, grass, love, and affection for the first time in their lives.”
“We can’t begin to imagine what these poor animals suffered as a result of the defendants’ reckless disregard for their welfare,” says Bruce Friedrich, Farm Sanctuary’s senior director for strategic initiatives. “No remedy is severe enough, but at the very least they should be held fully accountable by the courts.”
“The lawsuit the Animal Legal Defense Fund is filing on behalf of the plaintiffs who rescued the thousands of hens left to die seeks to place the expense of dealing with the tragic aftermath of this act of cruelty on the owners of A&L Poultry, who blatantly violated California law and never looked back,” says ALDF executive director Stephen Wells.