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Hen sanctuary lawsuit moves forward

POSTED December 11, 2012 7:32 p.m.

Three non-profit animal sanctuaries are a step closer in seeking justice for 50,000 hens who were abandoned this past February in what Stanislaus County Animal Services executive director called the worst case of animal cruelty the county has ever seen.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a suit seeking financial compensation on behalf of Animal Place, Farm Sanctuary and Harvest Home, after the organizations rescued thousands of hens left on a county farm.

 “The lawsuit seeks to place responsibility on the guilty parties who caused the inexcusable suffering of thousands of hopeless animals,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund senior attorney Matthew Liebman.  “We are confident that we will overcome these hurdles and have the court rule in our favor and seek justice for these defenseless animals.”

In February, a citizen complaint led to the discovery of an estimated 50,000 hens starving to death at an egg farm off South Carpenter Road. A third of the hens were already dead when county officials arrived for the rescue effort and nearly all were so sick they had to be euthanized. The remaining hens were taken to the animal sanctuaries.  The hens had been left without feed for about two weeks by A&L Poultry owner Andy Cheung.

On Dec. 5, Stanislaus Superior Court ruled in the sanctuaries’ favor, dismissing the defendant’s claims and moving the lawsuit to a possible trial.

“The next step of the process is a motion for discovery,” said Liebman.  “It is a request the court to order parties to collect evidence.  It is intended to allow parties what to expect at trial.  Knowing the other side’s case encourages pretrial resolution and facilitates evidence at trial.”

At this point, any party may move for a summary judgment, a court order ruling without the need for a trial.

“We still have a long road ahead of us and there is still plenty for us to do on our part,” said Liebman.  “It is important we win this case, and seek justice for the hens.”

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