Md. bans sale, slaughter of pigs on farm

Inspectors saw pigs eating carcasses on the Carroll property

April 04, 2006|By MARY GAIL HARE | MARY GAIL HARE,SUN REPORTER

The Maryland Department of Agriculture has imposed a swine quarantine on a 112-acre Carroll County farm and banned the sale and slaughter of pigs there after federal, state and county agents discovered decomposing carcasses, piles of bones and livestock feeding on rotting trash.

During a search for possible violations of agricultural, environmental and animal cruelty laws, investigators and three livestock veterinarians took samples from carcasses and removed a malnourished pig that later died.

When inspectors observed pigs feeding off garbage and animal carcasses strewn across the property, the Agriculture Department imposed the quarantine at the Marston farm.

"Swine cannot move on or off the property for a minimum of 30 days from the last illegal feeding," said Sue Dupont, a department spokeswoman. "The owner also cannot sell swine products. These pigs have had access to carcass material."

This was the second search warrant issued in less than a month for the livestock farm, owned by Carroll Schisler, 59, and his son, Carroll Schisler Jr., 33. They raise cows, goats, chickens and pigs and occasionally other animals, such as llamas or emus. Neither man could be reached for comment yesterday.

State police secured the second search warrant Friday and accompanied officials from the state departments of Agriculture and Health and Mental Hygiene, the Carroll County Health Department, the Carroll County Humane Society, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the farm for more than four hours Saturday.

Officials said they will await test results from the samples and a necropsy of the dead pig, results of which will not be available for several days, before considering any charges against the farm owners.

Most of the possible violations would be misdemeanors, punishable by minimal fines, but officials said they have resolved to find ways to clean up the farm and prevent a recurrence.

The state Agriculture Department will be responsible for enforcing the swine quarantine.

On March 9, during an authorized search of the Schisler farm for stolen property, police discovered numerous livestock carcasses, some decomposing in pens holding live animals and others scattered about the property amid piles of bones.

Photographs, obtained by The Sun, were taken by the Carroll County Health Department last month and showed pigs feeding off carcasses, piles of decaying dead cows stacked among mounds of bones and a dead pig left in what appeared to be a large feeding trough. Other photos show runoff from carcasses and animal pens flowing into nearby pastures and woods.

Pictures were taken inside a blood-stained slaughterhouse that the owners operate on the farm. Health inspectors shot photographs of cartons with rotting eggs and a refrigerator, blackened with mold, storing food products.

Customers, many of whom seek animal slaughter along religious or ethnic guidelines, purchase animals from the farm's livestock and request customized slaughter, agriculture officials said.

The operation is largely unregulated because the slaughter is of the owner's property and at the owner's request. The animal products cannot legally be sold, agriculture officials said.

"The farmer is not licensed in any way by the Food Safety and Inspection Service," said Amanda Eamich, spokeswoman for the agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although federal officials said animal products cannot legally be sold, one photo shows the door to the slaughterhouse with the hours of operation painted in large black letters.

Although officials have expressed disgust with the farm's condition, no agency has taken the lead on finding a solution.

The state health department became involved because of potential food safety violations but will not comment on a continuing investigation, said spokesman John Hammond.

The state attorney general's office also participated in the original search. But unless officials can determine an adverse impact to surrounding neighbors or streams, state agencies cannot become involved in what is essentially a local issue, said Kevin J. Enright, a spokesman for the attorney general.

"For this to be a crime, we would have to prove the owners knowingly let fluids from dead animals get into waterways," Enright said.

In the past two years, the county Humane Society has collected from neighboring Marston properties dozens of feral pigs, as well as goats, llamas and emus that had escaped. For years, herds of feral pigs have routinely torn up neighbors' lawns, eaten shrubs and damaged homes.

At several county hearings last year, the elder Schisler said the feral pigs were not his property.

He has repaired fencing that allowed livestock to escape, he told officials. In December, animal control officers rounded up more than 30 feral pigs roaming outside the farm.

Because of conditions at the farm, the Carroll County Health Department might be able to enforce a nuisance ordinance and force the farmer to clean up the property, health officials said.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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