WESTPORT, Mass. (WPRI) — Hundreds of animals found living in squalor at a Westport farm started being moved to better conditions on Tuesday.
Police and members of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) arrived at the 70-acre property off American Legion Highway just before 8 a.m. to begin moving the various animals to a temporary shelter.
The process is expected to take several days.
“It’s going to be a slow process,” said Tim Rickey of ASPCA. “Our goal is just to move the animals out in a calm, quiet relaxed manner as much as possible.”
The ASPCA said they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars so far to take care of the animals.
“ASPCA works with law enforcement all over the country on large animal operations and we’ve done cases with more animals, but this one is probably one of the most complex just because it’s so many types of animals,” Rickey said.
Officials said the animals, more than 900 in total, included cows, goats and sheep.
“We’re looking at 250-300 animals that will be off the site by the end of the day today and we’ll continue on tomorrow and probably for a couple of days until we have the place cleaned out,” Rickey added.
He said the people involved in the situation were not acceptable farmers.
“I’m not seeing any type of acceptable farming practices happening here,” Rickey said. “You know, I hope what we learn from this is obviously some education and the importance of reporting these situations. People were seeing this and not reporting it.”
- In-Depth Coverage: Westport Farm Abuse »
Police executed a search warrant at the farm July 19 and discovered hundreds of dead and injured animals in horrible conditions. The ASPCA called it the largest farm animal abuse case the Northeast has ever seen.
More than five dozen animals had to be put down shortly thereafter. Officials said the conditions of the surviving animals have improved greatly now that their needs are being met.
About 60 animals have already been taken in by the Animal Rescue League of Boston, including dogs, goats, rabbits, chickens, and geese.
The town’s Board of Selectmen met in executive session on Monday. Officials discussed a temporary license that’s needed between the owner of the land, where the animals are headed, and the town.
“It’s important for people to know that no one here in Westport is proud of what we’ve discovered over the past few weeks,” said Chairman R. Michael Sullivan. “We also have to look forward as to why did this happen and how do we prevent it from happening in the future.”
The property was divided into more than 20 lots and about two dozen people are now being investigated. Police have not yet filed charges against the property owner, Richard Medeiros, who sub-let the parcels, or against any of his tenants.
Police said animals were found in equally terrible conditions at the same property back in 2010, but the scale of the issue was not as large. Approximately 60 animals had to be put down following that discovery.
Police criticized the Board of Health for not doing more to prevent it from happening a second time.