A Chinese restaurant in the Town of Hamburg was shut down by the Erie County Health Department Friday after an inspector found employees butchering a deer inside.
Officials don't know whether the dead deer at China King, 5999 South Park Ave., had been hunted or if it was road kill.
"From our standpoint, it doesn't matter," said Health Commissioner Dr. Anthony J. Billittier IV. "They can't do what we think they did."
Billittier said that there is no reason to believe that the deer meat made its way into any of the dishes served at China King.
"I don't think they were far enough along," Billittier said. "They were in the butchering process. They didn't get to the meat yet."
Butchering an animal inside a restaurant is against the law in New York State for sanitary reasons. Diseases such as E. coli can be spread through unsafe butchering.
"In general, you can't have a dead animal in a food services establishment," Billittier said.
In addition, it's illegal to sell meat that hasn't been prepared by a licensed butcher, he said.
"What were they going to do with the meat?" Billittier wondered. "I don't think we'll ever really know the answer to that."
The bizarre discovery was made after a tipster called the Health Department late Friday morning.
A health inspector was quickly sent to the restaurant and saw the dead deer being butchered. The inspector also discovered a cooling unit at the restaurant was not at the proper temperature.
The restaurant was immediately closed down. A hearing on the matter is expected to be held early next week.
The owners, identified in records as John Zhang and Wei Zhen Ma, could not be reached to comment Friday.