Dead hogs prompt officials to consider charges

Saturday, May 31, 2008 | 6:15 p.m. CDT; updated 12:34 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

SCOTT COUNTY — Authorities are considering criminal charges after a health inspector this week found the remains of more than 50 hogs while checking an abandoned southeast Missouri farm.

Investigators with the Scott County Sheriff’s Office and the county health department said it appears the animals died in February when an ice storm left the farm without power for four days and the hogs went without food, water or adequate ventilation.

Sheriff’s Capt. Gregg Ourth said that without ventilation, ammonia fumes from the animals’ waste could have eventually asphyxiated them. He said the farmer removed the surviving hogs less than 24 hours after the others died.

State law requires farmers to dispose of animal carcasses within a day.

“Criminal charges could stem from neglecting to properly dispose of the animals,” Ourth said.

Barry Cook, the county health department’s administrator, discovered the hogs’ remains Tuesday after receiving two complaints from neighbors. After seeing only a couple of the dead hogs, he said he notified the sheriff’s office, the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources.

“I saw six to eight dead hogs — but it didn’t matter if it was 600, that’s all I needed to see,” he said.

Ourth said he and an investigator with the Department of Natural Resources found nothing in a long, L-shaped pig shed. But he said they found the remains of at least 50 hogs, some weighing as much as 200 pounds when they died, in a metal barn used to fatten the pigs. He said the smell was overpowering.

Investigators have identified an Illinois man as being the farm’s original owner before relinquishing it to an Illinois bank. The bank has agreed to pay to clean up the property, which must meet state standards before being sold.

Ourth said investigators have determined the farm’s levees and lagoons are still in good shape and not overfilled, and Cook said that while the farm’s wells will be tested for contamination they are very deep and should be fine.

Nearby residents said they’re still worried because they say the farm wasn’t well-run when it was operating.

“It’s a shame that it took this many dead hogs to bring attention to this,” said Lori Glasstetter, a row crop and cattle farmer whose property adjoins the hog farm. She said that on days when the hogs were being loaded onto trucks, their squeals were horrible to hear and eastern breezes carried the smell from the farm’s animal incinerator to her home almost a half-mile away.

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