A grand jury in Union County, Ohio has declined to issue an indictment for animal cruelty against Gary Conklin, owner of a dairy farm where earlier this spring egregious abuse was exposed as the result of an undercover investigation by Mercy for Animals.
A former employee, Billy Joe Gregg, can be seen violently beating, punching and kicking cows and calves at the Plain City farm. He repeatedly slams them to the ground, stabs them with pitchforks, twists and breaks their tails. Gregg is videotaped boasting about his malicious abuse of these animals.
Gregg was fired when the undercover investigation became public and exposed his vicious abuse of these animals. Gregg faces 12 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and a felony weapons charge. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Curiously, after the grand jury’s decided not to indict Conklin, the Union County prosecutor, David Phillips, issued a press release sounding more like Conklin’s attorney than a prosecutor whose job is to enforce animal cruelty laws.
Conklin not only owned the farm and employed Gregg but is also seen kicking a downed cow on the undercover video.
Phillips said the portion of the video shown on youtube had been spliced together and Conklin’s abuse of the animals was taken out of context. Four veterinarians also came to Conklin’s defense.
Phillips states, "In context, Mr. Conklin’s actions were entirely appropriate…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."
So it’s okay to kick the cow?
Ohio laws against cruelty to farm animals
Ohio does have laws that protect farm animals, but violations carry only misdemeanor penalties. Under ORC §959.13 states: "(A) No person shall:(1) Torture an animal, …unnecessarily or cruelly beat, needlessly mutilate or kill" an animal. Under ORC §959.02 it is illegal to "maliciously, or willfully, and without the consent of the owner, kill or injure a horse, mare, foal, filly, jack, mule, sheep, goat, cow, steer, bull, heifer, ass, ox, swine, dog, cat, or other domestic animal that is the property of another."
"Cruelty," "torment," and "torture" include every act, omission, or neglect by which unnecessary or unjustifiable pain or suffering is caused, permitted, or allowed to continue, when there is a reasonable remedy or relief". ORC § 1717.01
A bill currently pending in the Ohio legislature, H.B. 55, would increase the penalty for a violation of the animal cruelty law, including for farm animal cruelty, for a second or subsequent violation from a misdemeanor of the second degree to a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
Sadly, it is animal welfare advocates who may pay the price here. The U.S. Attorney is reviewing alleged threats said to have been made against the Conklins after the video became public and may bring charges under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Unlike the misdemeanor charges for the horrific animal cruelty committed repeatedly at this dairy farm, charges under the AETA carry substantial felony penalties.