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Animal rights groups seek justice for 50,000 starved hens
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Three non-profit animal sanctuaries, Animal Place, Farm Sanctuary and Harvest Home are seeking justice for 50,000 hens who were abandoned this past February in what Stanislaus County Animal Services Executive Director Annette Patton called the worst case of animal cruelty the county has ever seen.

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.

Patton said in February the hens had been left without feed for about two weeks by A&L Poultry owner Andy Cheung.

The group of animal sanctuaries filed a lawsuit this month in Stanislaus County Superior Court. The group, which is represented by attorneys at the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Schiff Hardin, said the shelters took in 4,500 hens and thus shouldered Cheun’s financial responsibility of caring for the damaged hens.

In the complaint, the sanctuaries contend that the hens were crammed into cages so small that they could not stretch their wings and that surviving hens intermingled with the 20,000 hens that had already perished.

“Dozens of chickens had fallen out of their cages and struggled to avoid drowning in the giant manure pits below the buildings. Many were so sick that they could not stand, hold up their heads, or eat and drink. The sanctuaries provided emergency care to the emaciated and suffering animals, and have been nursing them back to health,” the group said in a statement.

 “We can’t begin to imagine what these poor animals suffered as a result of the defendants’ reckless disregard for their welfare,” said Bruce Friedrich, Farm Sanctuary’s senior director for strategic initiatives. “No remedy is severe enough, but at the very least they should be held fully accountable by the courts.”

The lawsuit the Animal Legal Defense Fund is filing on behalf of the plaintiffs who rescued the thousands of hens left to die seeks to place the expense of dealing with the tragic aftermath of this act of cruelty on the owners of A&L Poultry, who blatantly violated California law and never looked back, said ALDF executive director Stephen Wells.