Egg farm faces animal cruelty charges

by MEAT+POULTRY Staff
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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Hohberg’s Poultry Ranches, an egg production operation based in Ontario, California, faces 39 counts of violating the state’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, also known as Proposition 2 which voters approved in 2008.

In addition to Proposition 2 violations, prosecutors with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office charged the firm with 16 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.

“While we are obviously concerned about the health of our citizens, at the end of the day, we also have a lawful obligation to ensure that animals in our county are being treated humanely,” District Attorney Mike Ramos said in a statement. “The overcrowded conditions these animals were forced to live in were cruel. It was a horrible existence.”

The charges stem from a report made in January to the Inland Valley Humane Society that chickens housed at Hohberg’s were being kept in “inhumane” and “deplorable” conditions. On Feb. 20, the Ontario Police Dept. executed a search warrant at the egg farm following an investigation by the Inland Valley Humane Society and law enforcement.

Investigators from the District Attorney’s Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit, Ontario Police Dept., The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Inland Valley Humane Society found birds in overcrowded cages in which the birds were not able to fully spread their wings. Proposition 2 mandates that cages for egg-laying hens must be large enough for the birds to stand up, lie down and extend their wings.

“Upon serving the search warrant, we found approximately 28,800 hens in unsanitary conditions that clearly violated the Farm Animal Cruelty Act,” Assistant District Attorney Debbie Ploghaus said. “In some instances, we found dead hens decaying in the same cages beside living hens laying eggs for human consumption.”

Owner Robert Hohberg, 70, is scheduled to appear in court March 7. If convicted of the charges, he faces up to a maximum of 180 days in county jail for each cage size violation and a year for each animal cruelty count.

“We commend the San Bernardino District Attorney’s office for honoring the rule of law and for properly enforcing California statutes protecting farm animals and consumers,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS said in a statement. “California voters made their will clear with Prop 2, and California egg producers must adopt housing systems to comply with the law. What we saw at this factory farm was a gross violation of Prop 2 now more than eight years after voters approved it.”

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