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Westminster auction operator charged with animal health violations.

John Vogel, Editor, American Agriculturist

June 1, 2008

2 Min Read

Attention livestock producers and marketers: New standards are in place regarding animal care and inhumane treatment. And they can cause you grief.

James Horak, owner of the Westminster Livestock Auction Market, Westminster, Md., was one of the first to be caught in the backwash of February's expose of Hallmark Packing Company's videotaped animal abuse. Late last week, Maryland Department of Agriculture announced that it had charged Horak with four counts of violating State Animal Health regulations.

The charges are a result of an investigation into reported inhumane treatment of a non-ambulatory cow at the auction on April 22 and 23. "After investigating this matter, the agency believes that the market was not was not prepared to handle downer animals that night. As a result a 'downer' cow was not treated in a humane manner," said Md. Ag Secretary Roger Richardson. "Mr. Horak has been charged with violating the State's Animal Health Law."

The violations were ...

  • Two counts of failing to provide humane treatment by improperly moving a downed animal and failing to timely euthanize an animal in obvious distress.

  • One count of failing to provide the needed equipment for handling, moving and if necessary euthanizing the animal.

  • One count of failing to euthanize the downed animal at the close of the sale or place her in the care of a licensed veterinarian.

Horak and his staff cooperated fully with the investigation, notes Maryland State Veterinarian Dr. Guy Hohenhaus. "This appears to be an unusual incident for the auction. The operator has already taken steps to prevent such a situation from happening again."

Stronger regulatory authority takes effect on Oct. 1, 2008, gives the Ag Secretary authority to issue administrative penalties (fines) of up to $10,000 in cases where these laws and regulations are broken.

About the Author(s)

John Vogel

Editor, American Agriculturist

For more than 38 years, John Vogel has been a Farm Progress editor writing for farmers from the Dakota prairies to the Eastern shores. Since 1985, he's been the editor of American Agriculturist – successor of three other Northeast magazines.

Raised on a grain and beef farm, he double-majored in Animal Science and Ag Journalism at Iowa State. His passion for helping farmers and farm management skills led to his family farm's first 209-bushel corn yield average in 1989.

John's personal and professional missions are an integral part of American Agriculturist's mission: To anticipate and explore tomorrow's farming needs and encourage positive change to keep family, profit and pride in farming.

John co-founded Pennsylvania Farm Link, a non-profit dedicated to helping young farmers start farming. It was responsible for creating three innovative state-supported low-interest loan programs and two "Farms for the Future" conferences.

His publications have received countless awards, including the 2000 Folio "Gold Award" for editorial excellence, the 2001 and 2008 National Association of Ag Journalists' Mackiewicz Award, several American Agricultural Editors' "Oscars" plus many ag media awards from the New York State Agricultural Society.

Vogel is a three-time winner of the Northeast Farm Communicators' Farm Communicator of the Year award. He's a National 4-H Foundation Distinguished Alumni and an honorary member of Alpha Zeta, and board member of Christian Farmers Outreach.

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