David Cobb allowed a cow with a bullet in its head to lie for hours on a pile of dead animals

Lancaster, PA

Lancaster County

December 16, 2008
Thomas Warner      

The owner and an employee of New Holland Sales Stables have been charged with animal cruelty for allegedly allowing a cow with a bullet in its head to lie for hours on a pile of dead animals.

Kerry Flanagan of Humane League of Lancaster County said an anonymous caller alerted authorities at 2 p.m. Dec. 16 that the cow was on the stables' "dead pile" — where animals deemed unsuitable for sale are placed after being euthanized — still breathing, bleeding and moving.

Humane police officer John Matrisciano reported that when he arrived at the stables at 6 p.m., the cow was still alive and flailing.

"The cow was on the dead pile by the Dumpster, and there was movement in its leg," Flanagan said. "It was lying in a puddle of its own blood, and there was a small-caliber bullet entry hole in its forehead. You could tell by the marks on the ground that it was dragged from inside the barn out to the dead pile."

Flanagan said Matrisciano alerted stable employees that the cow was not dead, and an employee shot and killed her at 6:30 p.m.

Matrisciano charged the stable owner, David Cobb, and employee Thomas Warner, for not verifying the cow was dead after she was shot.

Flanagan said the summary offense charges filed by Matrisciano on Dec. 17 stem from state law that requires humane killing of injured or sick animals.

"Legally, they are responsible for shooting the animal and putting it out of its suffering," Flanagan said. "Since they didn't do that, the original employee who shot the cow and did not verify that it was dead and the owner have both been charged with summary offenses for allowing it to suffer for hours on the floor of the auction."

By law, animals at the auction being sold for human consumption that are found to be sick or injured must be euthanized.

Flanagan said animals that are unable to walk off transportation vehicles on their own also may not be sold and must be killed.

In many cases, animal-cruelty charges against a defendant increase in severity upon subsequent convictions. However, though New Holland Sales Stables has been charged with cruelty in the past for the same offense, Flanagan said the most recent charges are only summary offenses — the lowest level of criminal charge — because the statute that increases the severity of charges against repeat offenders applies only in crimes against dogs and cats.

According to newspaper records, New Holland Sales Stables was charged with animal cruelty in February 2006 when humane police officers found an ailing sheep alive in a Dumpster and a live Holstein cow on the dead pile.

In that article, former SPCA officer Pennell Hopkins said New Holland Sales Stables had a documented history of similar offenses but had not been charged with animal cruelty.

"This has been an ongoing problem at the sales stables, live animals being left on the dead pile, and they receive no veterinarian attention except when I have called attention to it," Hopkins said in 2006. " … They've had enough warnings about live animals being left on the dead pile. Nothing has changed. Unfortunately, I see court as the only solution."

Flanagan said Tuesday that she doesn't know of any statistics indicating how often charges are filed for similar infractions.

"There are laws to prevent this from happening, but considering the large numbers of animals moved through the system across the country, it's hard to know how common it is," she said. "But certainly this isn't an isolated incident, even at this location. There have been previous charges against New Holland Stables. It's probably more common than any of us are aware or would like to think."

However, Flanagan said people need to be aware of such incidents, especially because these cases are happening in Lancaster County.

"It's important for people to know this suffering happens locally. It's not just these big undercover investigations that the Humane Society of the United States conducts," she said. "This happens everywhere, even in Lancaster."

If Cobb and Warner plead guilty or are convicted, they face fines.


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