Carroll farm had been target of complaints

July 15, 2006|By LAURA MCCANDLISH AND GINA DAVIS | LAURA MCCANDLISH AND GINA DAVIS,SUN REPORTERS

A "For Sale" sign is planted next to the quarantine notice that reads, "No swine, living or dead, may enter or leave," at the entrance to a 112-acre Carroll County farm with overgrown fields and weathered fencing.

The farm, in the western Carroll community of Marston, has been on the market for several months, since its owner, Carroll Schisler Sr., 60, moved to Pennsylvania this year, his attorney, Roland Walker, said.

But neighbors suspect the farm might be the source of marauding pigs - something Schisler denies - and shake their heads at the latest reports of decomposing carcasses and unsanitary conditions at the shuttered facility.

Schisler and his son, Carroll Schisler Jr., 34, of the 2500 block of Marston Road, were arrested this week on a 19-count indictment that includes charges of animal cruelty, feeding garbage to swine and selling contaminated meat on the property. The charges stemmed from two raids by federal and state officials in the spring.

The Schislers, through their attorney, deny any wrongdoing.

According to Walker, the Schislers bought livestock at auctions and resold the animals. Schisler's customers included immigrants from the Washington area who bought goats and slaughtered them on the premises according to their religious customs, Walker said.

Walker said any diseased animals were purchased that way.

"It's the American way; he buys cattle cheap and sells them high," Walker said. "A lot of them don't make it. It's not his neglect but the neglect of the prior owner."

The farm has been under quarantine since April, when an emaciated pig was discovered to be infected with trichinosis, a deadly parasite. The pig later died.

It's not the first brush with such accusations. In the early 1990s - when, authorities say, numerous decaying carcasses were discovered at the farm, the owners faced charges of animal cruelty and operating a slaughterhouse without a license. The animals lacked shelter, adequate food and water, and veterinary care, according to the charges that were subsequently dropped.

The owners successfully sued the Humane Society for statements made during the investigation.

But neighbors continued their complaints. Carroll County Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr., who lives in the nearby town of Union Bridge, said he has fielded complaints from the Schislers' neighbors for years.

Carroll Schisler Sr. met with the county commissioners last year to say he was being harassed by animal control officers.

The Schisler farm sits back from Marston Road on a long driveway, its farmhouse and outbuildings unseen by passers-by. Other farms and a few older homes line the road to Marston, a crossroads with one convenience store. Most residents travel to New Windsor, the closest town, for shopping.

In the past few years, a small subdivision with a few upscale homes has sprouted up near one end of the farm, where feral pigs have disturbed the homeowners for at least the past two years.

The Schislers have said the pigs are not theirs.

John Van Brunt, whose horse rescue farm sits adjacent to the Schisler property, said his property was teeming with a band of pigs as recently as two weeks ago.

The pigs dig up grubs and plant roots with their snouts, said Van Brunt, the Schislers' neighbor of 21 years.

"It looks like someone has plowed it up with a Rototiller afterward," Van Brunt said.

Van Brunt thinks the Schislers are good neighbors.

"If Carroll Sr. knew it, he would do something," Van Brunt said. "He's always taken care of animals when they have gotten through the fence."

As of yesterday, 16 pigs had been rounded up on Van Brunt's property, according to Carolyn "Nicky" Ratliff, director of the Humane Society of Carroll County.

They were being tested for disease.

Thomas G. Hartsock, an animal science professor who specializes in swine at the University of Maryland said the situation at the Schisler farm is "very, very much an exception."

Trichinosis has all but disappeared from the nation's pig farms in the past 30 to 40 years, he said.

Hartsock, who visited the Schisler farm and testified in a related hearing last year, said, "In order to get [trichinosis] you have to eat a piece of muscle from an infected mammal."

Since pigs are omnivores, they will eat anything that becomes available, especially in more wild environments.

"If they come across a dead animal that's tasty, they'll eat that as well," he said.

Carroll Schisler Sr. was charged with auto theft and conspiracy in March when state police searched his property for a stolen motorcycle and allegedly discovered numerous rotting livestock carcasses on the property.

State police arrested the elder Schisler when he appeared Thursday morning in Carroll County Circuit Court in the theft case.

He was released on personal recognizance, Walker said.

The younger Schisler, whose nickname is "Hot Shot," was arrested Tuesday on the animal charges and released on $10,000 bail.

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