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Video shows animals beaten; Ontario livestock company charged

May 30, 2012 |  1:57 pm

The owner of an Ontario livestock auction house and seven employees face animal cruelty charges after undercover video shot by an animal rights group allegedly shows the workers kicking, tossing and beating the animals.

Mercy for Animals, a Los Angeles-based animal rights group, released hidden-camera video footage Wednesday allegedly showing workers at Ontario Livestock Sales kicking and stomping on pigs to get them to move through a narrow passage, slinging a baby goat by the neck and hind legs and beating emus in the face with a paddle.

In one scene, an apparently sick sheep is dragged into a van to be slaughtered for food.

"This case is a graphic illustration of what we see in auction houses across the country," said Matt Rice, director of investigation at Mercy for Animals, which submitted a formal complaint to the San Bernardino County district attorney's office along with the raw video footage. 

Prosecutors filed 21 misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty against the owner, Horacio Santorsola, and seven employees last week after conducting an investigation with the Inland Valley Humane Society, said Reza Daghbandan, a prosecutor with the district attorney's office.

The defendants face a maximum sentence of a year in county jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted, he said. They are scheduled to appear in court July 20.

Santorsola, 73, told the Associated Press he and his employees had done nothing wrong and that it was necessary to grab the animals by their legs and necks because they are not tame.

"How are you going to pick them up?" he told the news service. "They don't have a leash. They run, believe me, they do run."

Ontario Livestock Sales is one of the oldest and largest livestock auction house in Southern California, according to the company's website. The family-owned-and-operated farm has been in business since 1936 and has been run by Santorsola for the last 18 years. More than 1,000 horses, cattle, goats, sheep and other exotic animal are sold every week by the auction house.
The grainy video was shot over a seven-week period from January to March by an undercover investigator posing as an employee, Rice said. The worker recorded "a pattern of cruel treatment and neglect" using a buttonhole camera.
 
"We wanted to show the American public what is going on when they don't think people are watching," Rice said.

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-- Angel Jennings

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