Farmers ordered to explain in court the case of missing pigs

Prosecutors fear 100 swine quarantined at Carroll farm were illegally butchered

September 29, 2006|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN REPORTER

The operators of a Carroll County farm that has been under quarantine since a deadly parasite was discovered in an animal there have been ordered to appear in federal court next week to explain the disappearance of more than 100 pigs that prosecutors fear may be illegally slaughtered - putting at risk anyone who eats the meat.

Federal prosecutors said in court documents yesterday that it is not clear whether the pigs have been moved off the farm, slaughtered or sold for slaughter, but "each of these scenarios would create a serious risk to the public health of Maryland citizens."

"Even if the animals were not slaughtered on the property, by disposing of these animals in clear violation of the State of Maryland's quarantine order, the Schislers have violated this court's order," the prosecutors said in documents filed yesterday to request the emergency hearing.

The order requires Carroll L. Schisler Sr., 60, who owns the 112-acre farm in Marston, and his son, Carroll Jr., 34, who manages it, to appear Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to respond to allegations that they may be connected to the pigs' disappearance. The two are facing dozens of charges ranging from animal cruelty to selling contaminated meat.

U.S. District Judge Andre M. Davis granted the emergency hearing late yesterday after federal prosecutors told the court they are worried that the pigs may be heading to area slaughterhouses.

In July, Davis upheld an order banning the commercial slaughter of animals on the farm. He warned the Schislers that a violation of the order could bring fines, jail time and even confiscation of the farm.

The state's quarantine was imposed in April when an emaciated pig was found to be infected with trichinosis, a deadly parasite. The quarantine forbids pigs, dead or alive, from being brought onto or taken off the property.

Attorneys for the Schislers said yesterday that their clients don't know the pigs' whereabouts. "I am perfectly satisfied that Schisler [Sr.] had nothing to do with the removal of those animals," said attorney Roland Walker.

Schisler Jr.'s attorney, Daniel H. Green, said his client counted the pigs Sunday but was away from the farm Monday and Tuesday. Schisler Jr. noticed the pigs were missing Tuesday evening when he returned from visiting a friend, Green said.

"They both vehemently deny any involvement," Green said.

Walker and Green said yesterday that they believe "a state agency" has likely taken the pigs.

"We found scratches and tire marks that look like the pigs were loaded into several small trucks," Green said. "Schisler Sr. believes someone in a state or federal agency or animal control or animal rights advocates have taken them hostage."

State agriculture officials yesterday continued their investigation into the pigs' whereabouts.

"Finding out the disposition of those pigs is the focus of our investigation," spokeswoman Sue duPont said.

She said the agency planned to test the pigs on the Schisler property Sept. 14 but arrived to find the gates locked. On Tuesday, they rescheduled the visit for Oct. 4, she said.

Two weeks ago, the elder Schisler was charged with polluting state waterways and illegally disposing of dead animals. He faces four counts of illegally discharging a pollutant into state waters and four counts of illegally allowing the disposal of solid waste on his farm, according to the state attorney general's office.

The Schislers also face 19 criminal counts.. The charges stemmed from raids by federal and state investigators in the spring.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.