2010-11-18 / Front Page

Over 900 Pig Deaths “A Nightmare”

Final count made; animal cruelty investigation continues
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

An aerial view of the Clark farm located in Union Township where 926 pigs were found dead. PHOTO CREDIT: GOOGLE MAPS    An aerial view of the Clark farm located in Union Township where 926 pigs were found dead. PHOTO CREDIT: GOOGLE MAPS A local Humane Society officer aided by a team of forensic experts from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals wrapped up the initial leg of an ongoing investigation last week delving into the cruel deaths of hundreds of abandoned pigs.

Last Wednesday, animal enforcement officer Dennis Bumbaugh from Better Days Animal League, reported to the “News” that officials representing a variety of organizations were lending a hand in counting the carcasses of the finishing pigs that perished in recent months on a Union Township farm located at 949 Harmon Lane, Warfordsburg.

The 218-acre farm off of Harmonia Road in Buck Valley was purchased by Daniel and Kerron Clark on November 6, 1992. The couple separated in recent years, with Kerron Clark leaving the farm.

The couple’s divorce has not been finalized, according to records at the Fulton County Courthouse. Additional documents revealed sole ownership of the property was transferred to Kerron Clark on September 28. Daniel Clark had been reported as departing the property one month earlier.

Placed on the market for sale through Long and Foster Real Estate in recent weeks, the property included two hog finishing barns, a farmhouse constructed in the 1900s and various outbuildings. A prospective buyer touring the farm two weekends ago made the startling discovery that hundreds of feeder hogs bred for market had died inside the barns. The realtor, Rebecca Glesner, and Kerron Clark were in turn contacted.

With rumors abounding and questions circulating regarding responsibility and liability, the real estate firm issued a statement abounding that Glesner should not have listed the property for sale until a complete examination of the property was completed. That inspection would have included the barns that were reportedly blocked from easy access by farm equipment.

Bumbaugh said on Wednesday, November 10, investigators had scoured 85 percent of one building and counted 500 pigs. At least an additional 50 pigs in the building remained uncounted as of that time. It was believed an additional 350 to 400 pigs perished in the second finishing barn.

The pig carcasses, which were separated, measured, photographed and plotted out as to location within each building, were in varying states of decomposition. Some of the pigs, Bumbaugh added, had already begun the mummification process.

Bumbaugh referred to the incident as “a nightmare” and an “overwhelming task” for all involved.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know this is neglect,” said Bumbaugh, who made a point to climb every silo on the property and photograph their interiors without a scrap of grain to be found. “I have a responsibility to these animals to find out what happened.”

A veterinarian from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and an inspector with the state Bureau of Animal Health were on scene to aid Bumbaugh as well as the ASPCA Field Investigation and Response Team. The ASPCA team of experts were deployed to the farm to address a variety of issues and will be analyzing several carcasses to help determine fat content in the animals’ bone marrow.

Bumbaugh said he never dreamed of the sheer magnitude of the situation when he received the initial call from Kerron Clark about the dead pigs. Bumbaugh also made reference to the emotional and mental aspect of the case and how it hits home at the end of the day.

This week, the Humane Society officer shared that the carcass count came to an end on Friday. The official final count has been set at 926 pigs. Having turned to can- nibalism due to being deprived of food and water, some of the pigs that were found tried to break free from their prison of sorts within the buildings. Evidence shows holes and marks in the doors and surrounding doorway where attempts were made to break through.

“There was an awful lot of suffering in those barns,” concluded Bumbaugh.

Pennsylvania State Police from the McConnellsburg barracks have launched their part of the investigation that reportedly involves interviews with local residents, neighbors and Daniel and Kerron Clark. McConnellsburg station Cmdr. Troy Park was only able to confirm they have indeed become involved in the investigation. Additional media inquires will be fielded by state police officials in Hollidaysburg.

Nicole Bucher, Department of Agriculture acting press secretary, and Brook Duer, the department’s chief counsel, failed to respond to inquiries from the “News.”

In addition, Fulton County District Attorney Travis Kendall said he was not at liberty to discuss the ongoing investigation.

With disposal of the carcasses on everyone’s minds, Bumbaugh said as of Friday the feeder hog carcasses were still on the farm aside from the handful taken for evaluation by the ASPCA. Kerron Clark will be required to work with the Department of Agriculture and maybe the Department of Environmental Protection to coordinate the proper disposal of the animals. Several options available as dictated by the DEP are burying and incineration.

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