Cattaraugus County, New York, Cruelty Case: More Than 100 Pigs Rescued, Many Found Frozen to the Ground

Pigs in the snow at Farm Sanctuary

Cattaraugus County, New York, Cruelty Case: More Than 100 Pigs Rescued, Many Found Frozen to the Ground

Your support helped us come to the aid of over 100 pigs who were left in freezing weather without shelter or food at a farm in Olean, NY.

Local cruelty investigators from Cattaraugus County in New York responded to a complaint concerning about twenty pigs in a field without shelter or windbreak, with temperatures in the low teens and wind chills well below zero. Upon their arrival, officers and SPCA officials found several pigs actually frozen to the ground, and many pigs that could barely walk. Water troughs were empty or frozen solid, and the pigs were huddled in groups in the middle of snow and ice-covered fields.

Susie the pig at Farm Sanctuary

Upon further investigation of the farm, more pigs were discovered, totaling 128, all without shelter during one of the coldest winters on record. Of the 128, nine had to be euthanized immediately as a result of horrible frostbite and severe illness due to exposure and lack of water. One hundred and nineteen pigs were removed from the farm, of which five died within a few days. Due to the large number of pigs involved, local farmers were asked to foster them until a hearing could be set to arraign the farmer on cruelty and neglect charges.

After being contacted by the SPCA, we immediately launched a national rescue effort through our Farm Animal Adoption Network making hundreds of calls and emails to place these suffering animals into safe, permanent homes.

Initially, we were able to bring 54 of the youngest pigs to our New York Shelter (at that time we did not have shelter space for all of the pigs). After giving each pig a thorough health check upon arrival, we found they were suffering from severe mange, abscesses and skin wounds, ear infections, diarrhea, stomach bloating, and other ailments. Some of the pigs were taken to a veterinary clinic and the others received 24-hour care and treatment at our sanctuary. Once they were healthy, all of the pigs were micro-chipped and the male pigs were neutered.

The mothers of the piglets stayed at the foster farms, and Farm Sanctuary staff members went to the farms to administer Ivomec, and treat minor health problems such as cuts, scratches, and skin infections. We also were able to microchip all of the pigs and prepare them for their final trip to their new homes.

Pigs Find New Homes

As news about the pigs spread, dozens of people contacted Farm Sanctuary to adopt these needy animals. Farm Sanctuary hired a professional animal transporter with a fully equipped, temperature-controlled trailer to take 41 pigs on the first cross-country adoption trip. While the pigs traveled in comfort, the drivers brought the pigs to their new homes in Michigan, Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and California. Farm Sanctuary shelter staff also delivered pigs to families in Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut. At each adoption stop, the pigs were welcomed by excited new parents and by members of the media who wanted to capture every precious moment of the new arrivals.

22 sows were the next in line to be placed, and had to remain in their foster homes until that time. They were much larger, ranging from 300 to 800 pounds, and were unable to live in the small isolation barns that we had opened (which are used mostly for birds). Calls flooded in, however, and all of the remaining sows were spoken for by the end of April. Using the same wonderful transporters, the last group of pigs was finally ready to go. This trip included stops in Florida, South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, and Texas.

Of the original 128 pigs from the rescue, Farm Sanctuary adopted 68 into safe, loving homes. 9 of the pigs had to be euthanized at the Nason Farm (where the original abuse took place) because their injuries were so severe. Sadly, 49 pigs died in foster and rehab care due to serious health problems and injuries.

Pigs in the News

Media coverage of the pig adoption was extensive, and this “warm and fuzzy” animal rescue story also opened peoples’ eyes to the plight of farm animals. Millions of people learned that pigs need protection and love, too, when the adoption was covered in three Associated Press stories, including an AP story in Iowa, one of the country’s top pork-producing states. As reported in one Iowa paper, “Bauston (from Farm Sanctuary) said the Iowa couple is setting a humane example for the nation’s top pork-producing state…. These efforts help show people that farm animals are living, breathing, feeling animals” (Associated Press, Iowa).

From Massachusetts to Texas, reporters were touched by the pigs’ plight and many stories included heartwarming photographs of adopters cheek to cheek with their new family members. More than one adopter used the media opportunity to help people protect ALL pigs by going vegetarian. Adopter Meghan Beeby stated in the Des Moines Register, “My goals in adopting these pigs are to make people think twice the next time they bite into a ham sandwich or a pork chop.” More than 30 stories on the pig adoption effort have appeared in major newspapers across the country and on all three television networks.

You Can Help

Donations to help fund emergency rescues throughout the year are urgently needed and greatly appreciated. Member contributions allow Farm Sanctuary to respond immediately when cruelty cases arise and farm animals need us. Please call 1-607-583-2225 ext. 221 to make a donation to the Emergency Rescue Fund using your credit card, click here to make a donation using our secure online form or mail payment to: Farm Sanctuary, PO Box 150, Watkins Glen, NY 14891.

Reunited and It Feels So Good

On December 5, 2002, when the Cattaraugus County pigs were taken to foster homes, four small red piglets, Carmen, Cameron, Cody, and Collin, were separated from their mother and put into a pen by themselves. Their mother, Susie, was one of the largest sows from the rescue, weighing nearly 500 pounds at the time, and was put in a pen alone, since they thought she might hurt her babies when enclosed in a small area with them.

In January, Farm Sanctuary Staff members came to the foster home with the SPCA cruelty officer, to remove the piglets and take them back to the New York Farm Sanctuary Shelter. While removing them from the pen, an SPCA worker lost his grip on Cameron. Even after being away from his mother for over a month, he ran directly into her pen. She immediately pushed him into the corner, and lunged at anyone who entered to attempt to get her baby. After about ten minutes and multiple tries, Cameron was removed and taken to the farm. Unable to house the larger pigs at that time, Susie had to remain behind.

Carmen, Cameron, Cody, and Collin, along with two piglets from another litter, were all adopted in February and taken to a wonderful home in Texas, owned by Brooke Riba Sutton. At this time, Farm Sanctuary was trying desperately to find permanent homes for the larger sows still remaining from the rescue. On hearing the story of Cameron and his mother, Brooke enthusiastically agreed to take Susie into her home, as well. On the final trip to their adoptive homes, Susie, now weighing close to 800 lbs, was transported to her new home in Texas. She had a reputation for being very aggressive by the farmer at her foster home, so Brooke was told it would be best to keep them separated for a few weeks at least, and to then introduce them slowly.

Susie arrived safely at Brooke’s and was put into a pen far apart from the other pigs she had taken in February. When Brooke came out to feed the babies the next morning, to her horror only the two white piglets were there: All of the red babies were missing and there was a large hole in their pen. She quickly ran down to Susie’s pen, which also had a hole. With a huge sigh of relief and a smile of pure joy, she saw the sweet mother and her four babies snuggled up in the straw asleep. Since then they have been inseparable and will be able to live out the rest of their lives together.

Farmers often claim mothers are “aggressive,” and that once separated, a mother pig, cow or sheep “forgets” her babies. Susie and her babies demonstrate that the meat industry claims are false. Farm animals are living, feeling beings — a fact that the meat industry tries desperately to deny.

Pig Farmer Prosecuted

The pig farmer who abandoned the pigs was initially charged with 119 counts of cruelty to animals. Farm Sanctuary and the SPCA urged the judge for a strong prosecution, including the condition that the farmer not be allowed to own, possess or harbor ANY animals. There was an injunction to prevent him from owning animals until the trial was finished. The farmer’s original plea was “not guilty.”

On May 5, 2003, Jerry Nason was back in court for a jury trial. Four witnesses for the People included the Cattaraugus County SPCA investigator, the Town of Freedom Constable, who taped the seizure of the pigs, the neighbor who made the original complaint, and Perry Vet Clinic veterinarian Dave Hale. The defense had only one witness, a transporter, who stated he was going to transport the pigs for Nason after the weather turned cold. The DA, Stephen Wright, then called for a fifteen-minute recess. After the recess, Nason agreed to plead GUILTY to nine counts of cruelty to animals.

The sentencing hearing for Nason took place on July 17, after the Town of Ashford Judge received recommendations from the Cattaraugus County Probation Department. Nason’s sentence includes three years very strict probation, which stipulates that he cannot own or harbor any animals during that time, and can neither drink nor own firearms. He also has to complete 1,000 hours of community service, undergo a mental competency exam, and comply with whatever the agency recommends. According to the judge, any violation of his parole will result in an automatic jail sentence. After he completes his three-year probation, he can acquire an animal only if he completes an animal care course approved by the Cattaraugus County SPCA. He also has to pay restitution of approximately $3,000, for the first month when he refused to relinquish the pigs.