OJAI VALLEY : Farmer Fails to Contact Authorities

An upper Ojai Valley farmer who allegedly starved 38 pigs failed to contact authorities Thursday to schedule a hearing to get his pigs back, Ventura County Humane Society officials said.

Humane Society officials declined to identify the farmer, but said they will forward their case against the farmer within a few weeks. He faces abuse of animal charges, a potential felony, prosecutors said.

The Humane Society will retain custody of the pigs at least temporarily, officials said.

Officers seized the pigs Tuesday after receiving complaints from nearby residents on the alleged mistreatment, Humane Society Officer Jeff Hoffman said.

Officers documented the abuses on videotape and in photographs last week, Hoffman said.

"The pens were filthy, the water containers were bone dry, there was no food," Hoffman said. "I saw one mother give birth, and while they were still in their birth sacs, the other hogs went in and just started ripping them in half while they were screaming."

If the farmer is convicted on felony charges of animal abuse, he could face a maximum penalty of three years in prison, Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Simon said.

If permanent custody is granted to the Humane Society, the pigs will be placed for adoption or sent to the Farm Sanctuary, a shelter in Orland, Calif., for abused farm animals.

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