The Greene County Sheriff is investigating charges of animal cruelty at a hog confinement near Bayard. PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — sent an undercover investigator into the operation. A video PETA released Tuesday shows animals being severely mistreated.
Greene County Sheriff Tom Heater saw the video Tuesday afternoon. "It’s shocking," Heater says. "I mean, any of that is definitely unscaled for that I saw on the video."
On Wednesday, Heater and his staff began interviewing employees of the hog operation. "We’ve been in touch with management. They’ve been cooperative," Heater says. "We will take the evidence that we come up with and we’ll definitely go from there with what we have."
Heater’s office has never before had complaints of animal cruelty "to this degree," and he is getting legal advice from state officials on how to proceed with the case. The hog confinement operation had a change in ownership in mid-August. "It’ll complicate it just to where we sort the dates out," the sheriff says. "It shouldn’t complicate with any employees as to who they were working for at the time. It could make a difference with who the managers were at the time."
Animal cruelty is a misdemeanor, not a felony in Iowa. However, an aggravated misdemeanor conviction on animal cruelty charges could bring up to two years in prison and a fine of as high as $5000. "We would hope by this time next week to have a real good handle on it and see where we’re at with possible charges," Sheriff Heater says.
A spokesman for the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers says the video images of mistreated pigs were "sickening" and the group called for a criminal investigation of the Bayard operation. PETA has called on consumers to quit buying things like hot dogs, ham, sausage and bacon as that’s the kind of meat that comes from large-scale hog confinements like the one near Bayard where the video was recorded.