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Unfathomable case of animal cruelty on farm quickly generates appropriate response

Another disturbing case of animal abuse has been reported. This one is an enormous case involving some 600 animals in Cattaraugus County. Their tortured existence was accidentally discovered by a highway worker driving a snowplow past the farm last month. He noticed a draft horse lying in a field, covered with a blanket. The blanket was frozen to the ground. The horse was still alive, although it had to be euthanized.

That was Feb. 20 and just the start of the response.

An animal cruelty investigation four days later at Painted Meadows Farm resulted in a judge ordering the seizure of the animals, mostly fowl but also including horses, goats, sheep and a few beef cattle. Farm owners Bonnie and Donald George face two dozen animal cruelty charges.

The SPCA in Cattaraugus County and dozens of volunteers deserve great credit for working to clean up the farm.

The George case extends far beyond the confines of the 120-acre farm. The owners were regular vendors at the Elmwood Village Farmers Market. Since 2008, the Georges have sold chicken and duck eggs, plus rabbit, chicken, turkey and other poultry. Shoppers who wanted to do good by patronizing local farmers instead faced the sickening realization that they were somehow involved in an animal cruelty case.

In response, Elmwood Village Farmers Market leaders have properly put new safeguards in place. Vendors will now be subject to regular inspections. Previously, vendors were inspected before being accepted into the market, but seldom after that. Such inspections may help prevent future cruelty cases.

It isn’t the first time that the Georges have faced charges. In 2006, the SPCA seized more than 40 dogs from their farm but, as reported in The News, it is believed that they got them all back.

Fresh from the controversy involving the long-running cruelty case against Beth Hoskins over mistreatment of her Morgan horses, we have to confront another case, this one on an even larger scale of inhumanity.

The description reported in The News: animal cages encrusted in waste; manure piled so high in stalls that horses’ heads hit the ceiling; and bird cages stacked on top of each other. There were horses coated in filth and horses and donkeys with untrimmed hooves.

Nine horses had been left standing in stalls so long their muscles had atrophied, The News reported. Some animals apparently had been fed with expired foods such as cake mix, mayonnaise and Italian dressing.

The Georges just sold their farm to an Amish family from Ohio, which plans to move there this month.

For their part, the Georges are in the process of moving to another farm in southern Erie County. Animal welfare leaders can be expected to monitor the farm closely if they start building a new collection. They can’t be allowed to abuse animals a third time.