Prattsburgh Neglect Case: New York Animal Abuser Charged with Animal Cruelty

SPCA Animal Cruelty Officer, Scott Mazzo, first investigated the property of Ernesto Diaz after receiving a complaint from a humane agency in another New York county where Mr. Diaz had brought chickens to sell. Concerned by what he saw on his initial inspection, Mazzo obtained a search warrant for the property.

When he returned to the Diaz property with the warrant (and several other SPCA officers), he found dozens of sick, injured, and emaciated animals living outdoors without shelter, alongside the corpses of many poor creatures who had already succumbed to neglect.

All of the surviving animals were malnourished and suffering from exposure to cold temperatures. The roosters, in particular, were suffering from severe frostbite in their toes and combs, and many other chickens appeared to have eye and respiratory infections.

When Officer Mazzo confronted Mr. Diaz and showed him the warrant, Mr. Diaz agreed to surrender his animals into the care of the SPCA. In what was soon to be hailed as one of the largest animal rescue efforts in the history of Steuben County, Officer Mazzo and the other SPCA officials on the scene seized 57 neglected animals from the Diaz property. Garnering a great deal of local attention, the rescue was first reported in the Corning Leader on February 1 and then again on February 12. Immediately after they were removed from the Diaz property, all of the rescued animals were taken to the SPCA shelter in Bath, New York, where employees were already calling around to find homes for the rescued critters. When the SPCA staff called Farm Sanctuary, we happily agreed to take in the all of the chickens and a duck found on the Diaz property.

When the birds arrived at our New York Shelter, they were in even worse shape than we had imagined. We immediately offered them food and water, which they happily accepted, and began treating their frostbite and various bacterial infections. The frostbite we found on one of the roosters, named Mini-May, was so bad that it had started to turn his feet black and green. We rushed him to Cornell University’s Veterinary Hospital along with a hen, named Marmalade, who was experiencing severe respiratory distress. The doctors told us that Mini-May’s feet would heal in time, but that he might lose a few of his toes to the frostbite. They diagnosed Marmalade with an upper respiratory infection caused by Pasteurella, but seemed quite optimistic that she would recover with proper treatment.

Unfortunately, several of the roosters rescued in this case did eventually lose some of their toes to the frostbite. Many of the other roosters and hens lost part, or all, of their combs. Despite this, all of the chickens recovered well from their ordeal. Here at our New York Shelter, they ate their fill of nourishing food and quickly gained much-needed weight. As their health improved, they began to grow in beautiful new feathers and gradually regained their strength.

Mini May, the rooster with the worst frostbite in the rescued flock, made a remarkable recovery and moved into a loving adoptive home outside the sanctuary as soon as he was well enough to travel. Four other roosters, named Tangelo, Schilling, Smith, and Matty, have settled in well with a group of older hens on the farm, and Pedro has become close friends with another rooster named Mayfly and a hen named Grackel. Marmalade, the hen who was suffering from a respiratory infection, is now breathing easy and living happily with several other rescued Prattsburgh hens and a handsome rooster named Parinya. The rest of the Prattsburgh roosters are sharing their own private bachelor pad.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of SPCA Officer Scott Mazzo, these lucky birds have been given a new lease on life. Unfortunately, though, the perpetrator in this case escaped with a slap on the wrist. Ernesto Diaz pled guilty to 1 count of animal cruelty, which is a class A misdemeanor. He received a 3-year term of probation during which animal control officers may inspect his premises at any time to ensure compliance of animal care. He also must pay several hundred dollars in restitution. Although we wish Mr. Diaz had received prison time for his crime, we are at least thankful that the precious birds rescued in this case can never be hurt by him again.