A scheduling conflict among the defense attorneys has postponed a preliminary hearing in the animal cruelty case against two Turlock poultry farmers.
Andy Cheung and Lien Diep are each facing a charge of animal cruelty on the allegations that in 2012 with the rising cost of feed they folded their A&L Poultry enterprise, abandoning 50,000 hens in the process.
About two weeks after the defendants left the business Stanislaus County Animal Services found the hens in a deplorable state. More than 20,000 were dead of starvation or drowned in the manure pits under the cages. Another 25,000 were euthanized because the damage to their bodies was too great.
Stanislaus County Animal Services Executive Director Annette Patton called it the worst case of animal cruelty the county has ever seen.
A preliminary hearing was set for Tuesday afternoon, but the defense attorneys for Cheung and Diep did not believe the hearing could be concluded by day’s end and they would not have an opportunity to return to the case for several months.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff opted to postpone the preliminary hearing until Feb. 17, 2015. A preliminary hearing is held to determine if the prosecution has enough cause to hold a defendant over on criminal charges.
In addition to criminal charges, Cheung and Diep have each faced civil suits. Animal Place, Farm Sanctuary, and Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary filed a lawsuit against the pair after rescuing approximately 5,000 of the hens left at the property on S. Carpenter Road, just west of Turlock. A settlement was reached recently between the parties that bars Cheung and Diep from ever working with animals again.
The rescue of the remaining hens was documented in the film “Turlock.”
Cheung and Diep face up to three years in prison and fines up to $20,000 under California Penal Code section 597(b), which prohibits the act of depriving any animal or proper food, water or shelter. In addition, the law makes it a crime to inflict needless suffering or unnecessary cruelty upon any animal.