Animal rights group sues Live Oak poultry hatchery, alleging animal abuse
SANTA CRUZ - A Washington, D.C.-based animal rights group has filed a lawsuit against a Live Oak hatchery alleging numerous examples of animal abuse.
Compassion Over Killing, a nonprofit animal advocacy organization focused on cruelty to animals in agriculture, contends that Cal-Cruz Hatcheries Inc. routinely abused animals at its facility, and seeks to stop the alleged abuse. The suit stems from an investigation in 2009, in which an employee of Compassion Over Killing secretly documented the treatment of chickens and ducks with a hidden video camera.
The video footage was turned over in February 2009 to county Animal Services officials, who conducted their own investigation and gave their findings to the Santa Cruz District Attorney's office. The District Attorney's office did not file charges.
Wednesday morning, Compassion Over Killing, represented by Animal Legal Defense Fund attorneys, filed a civil complaint against the hatchery.
Cal-Cruz owner Brian Collins, who is named in the suit, did not return calls Wednesday.
Among other complaints, the organization claims that Cal-Cruz employees "operate heavy machinery in a manner that regularly mutilates hatchlings" and "neglect dying birds trapped in machinery or on the concrete floor," according to documents filed in court. The suit also claims Cal-Cruz employees drowned baby birds in buckets of waste, and threw hatchlings several feet into trash bins where they remained for several hours, among other examples.
Collins is accused using unlawful business practices that unfairly harm competition in the poultry industry. The suit seeks to stop Cal-Cruz from continuing those practices. It also seeks financial restitution for attorneys' fees and other expenses the organization says it's had to expend because of Cal-Cruz' practices.
"The investigation (into Cal-Cruz) and its aftermath caused Compassion Over Killing to divert substantial resources from its primary mission of reducing animal cruelty through public outreach," the plaintiffs state in court filings.
"This is a systemic problem," said Carter Dilliard, director of litigation for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, of the complaints against Cal-Cruz. "This is a problem that's rife in the agricultural industry."
Dilliard said attorneys for Compassion Over Killing had not yet heard from Collins' attorneys late Wednesday afternoon.