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Owner of Ohio dairy farm at center of animal-cruelty investigation won't face charges

July 6, 2010 |  1:15 pm

Conklin Dairy Farm video MARYSVILLE, Ohio — The owner of a central Ohio farm won't face charges in connection with a video showing cattle being beaten and poked with pitchforks, a prosecutor announced Tuesday.

A Union County grand jury decided not to indict Gary Conklin of Plain City after investigators and veterinarians studied the video and concluded Conklin acted appropriately, County Prosecutor David Phillips said.

An animal welfare group secretly recorded the video in late April, saying it showed cattle being abused at Conklin Dairy Farms. The farm fired an employee who has since pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of animal cruelty.

Phillips said the video posted on YouTube used out-of-context scenes to create a false perception that Conklin was involved in the abuse, but investigators and grand jurors saw the original video.

"They saw the unedited video of Mr. Conklin's actions, not the highly inflammatory version released on YouTube by Mercy for Animals," Phillips said in a statement.

The group said Tuesday that the decision not to charge Conklin has failed concerned citizens and animals that deserve protection, giving Conklin Farms "a free pass" for animal abuse.

"Mercy For Animals was the only true watchdog and defender the animals at Conklin Dairy Farms had," said Daniel Hauff, the group's director of investigations. "The dairy industry and local law enforcement had all failed to detect the abuse or hold the abusers accountable."

Phillips said the grand jury also considered charges against another farm employee, the undercover worker who made the video, and Mercy for Animals officials, but decided there wasn't enough evidence. Phillips said the abuse allegations should have been reported immediately to authorities.

He also said authorities were monitoring threats being made against the Conklin family and farm and warned they could result in prosecution.

Gary Conklin said in a statement it was gratifying that no else was charged. But he said the family remained saddened by the abuse shown in the video and said it didn't reflect the farm's commitment to animal care.

RELATED FARM ANIMAL NEWS:
Police guard Ohio farm at heart of animal-cruelty investigation to prevent private-property protest
Egg-farm video is latest salvo in Humane Society's campaign (April 2010 story by P.J. Huffstutter)

-- Associated Press

Photo: A screen grab from the video released by Mercy for Animals. (The video in its entirety is available for viewing on the group's website. Warning: It contains graphic images.) Credit: Mercy for Animals

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