September 15, 2010
PO Box 1056 Westminster, MD 21158
Last month Animal's Angels returned to the Shipshewana Auction in Indiana, a follow-up to our September 2009 visit. Many of you will remember our documentation of inadequate & cruel treatment of animals by auction employees, and especially the video footage of "Richard" kicking and beating an animal martial-arts style for several minutes. In addition to "Richard" we found the pens dangerously overcrowded with horses in sustained episodes of loud fighting, water and food troughs empty, and handling of the animals unreasonably brutal with many in very poor condition.
In a word, conditions last year were miserable.
Read the investigative report...
After that investigation, Animals' Angels filed complaints with auction owners, local law enforcement, the State Veterinarian, the Livestock Marketing Association and the House Agricultural Committee. The employee "Richard" was fired. All other employees were trained in humane handling practices.
Keith Lambright, an owner of Shipshewana Auction Inc. apologized publicly for the actions of his employee saying, "Shipshewana Auction supports the proper and ethical treatment of animals and in no way tolerates the mistreatment of any animal that enters our facility. Once again, we apologize..." AA Investigators returned last month to see if conditions had improved and if the auction owners had been true to their word.
The Livestock Auction
The morning of the Livestock Auction was already 83 degrees, hot and humid as investigators arrived. The pens were very overcrowded with approximately 300 head of cattle to be sold, mostly Holstein dairy cows. Hopes of improved conditions began to evaporate as investigators also observed that none of the pens contained water or food. Investigators noticed one pen appeared to be designated a "slow pen," a possible improvement if done properly, holding 32 cows that had arrived limping, emaciated or otherwise compromised. A "slow pen" would more likely keep these animals from being trampled than if they were in the regular pens. Several regular pens were extremely overcrowded and as the day went on many of the cows showed signs of heat stress with panting and foaming at the mouth. From one pen a Black Angus bull with a broken left front leg was brought into the alley. Auction employees struggled with the unwilling bull, running him up and around the alleys on three legs to a distant pen. It was soon apparent that Shipshewana's use of the "slow pen" was a way of concentrating the sickest and lowest priced cows in one area, and not a way of protecting or providing care. No water was ever provided here or in any of the pens. Several cows were down and groaning, one with shallow breathing and another panting heavily. Workers walked past these noticeably suffering animals many times without stopping or providing water, though Indiana law clearly states that withholding care is neglect and illegal. Some were emaciated, some stood holding one leg up, trying to move on the remaining three - a condition which should have made them unfit for transport since they were likely to become downers and trampled.
Another cow that appeared to have been dead for some time was also in the pen. The horse did not appear to be sick or injured. No water was in the pen. Many empty pens containing no dead animals were available.
The Horse Auction
Investigators arrived early to observe horses being unloaded. No water was in any of the pens as with the livestock auction. Another very bad day for the animals at Shipshewana soon started when a trailer with Michigan plates backed up to the loading dock. The horse inside the trailer was completely down. After several minutes of activity not visible to investigators, the horse hobbled out of the trailer. Her right front leg appeared to be broken and she was in poor physical condition, though alert and compliant. Despite her condition, an auction employee tagged her for sale and took her to an empty pen.
She collapsed within minutes, lying flat out on her side for the next hour. Someone who auction employees identified as the veterinarian arrived, briefly looked at the horse and shocked investigators as they heard him tell a worker to get the horse up. Her leg dangled oddly. Investigators had fully expected the vet would euthanize her where she lay. After an agonizing struggle, she was standing, and investigators were further shocked to see the veterinarian and the auction worker begin pushing the horse down a long aisle, all the way to an exit pen. The horse was
in obvious acute distress. An auction visitor watching from nearby said, "Oh, no! What are they doing to her? Can't they see how much the horse is hurting!" Enormous effort by both men was required to push and drag her because she was not moving on her own. Mr. Lambright, an owner of the auction, came, looked at the horse and seemed upset that his employees had unloaded the horse at his facility. A few minutes later, the trailer with Michigan plates pulled up. To the utter horror and anger of investigators, Mr. Lambright and the vet then forced the suffering horse out of the pen and pushed her into the trailer.
One of AA's investigators confronted Mr. Lambright but he denied all responsibility for the horse and responded by saying, "Ain't my problem. You take it up with the owner!" The investigator did not mince words in speaking to the owner who agreed to have the horse euthanized immediately.
Shortly thereafter the "loose" horse sale started. Shipshewana does not take horses that are designated as slaughter horses to the arena. Instead, the kill buyers gather in the pen area in the back and the horses are sold within minutes. The vet joined the kill buyers here, making fun of horses in poor condition and joking about one horse that was blind in both eyes. Eventually he also joined in the bidding with the kill buyers. Jeron Gold, owner of "Roping J Ranch" and one of the nations main slaughter buyers, purchased many of the horses going through the sale.
Read the full investigative report...
What can you do?
AA is left with multiple concerns about the Shipshewana Auction. While we noted that the overall auction employees' handling of animals had improved (Long pointed wooden sticks were not used to poke animals; the use of paddles and whistling was done well, and no animals were observed being carried by tails or ears;no beating & hitting of animals), it does not 'make up for' or lessen the concerns raised by this investigation.
Despite Mr. Keith Lambright's talk about the "proper and ethical treatment of animals," the improper and unethical treatment of animals was rampant. The issues are grave, involving neglect, abuse and violations of animal cruelty laws and AVMA policy. Animals' Angels is exploring several avenues by which we can respond most effectively. Tourism is Big Business in Shipshewana - Shipshewana's economic engine and the most important industry in the region. In our December 2009 Newsletter, AA noted the area's attraction to half a million tourists annually, "visitors seeking a bucolic step back into the 'good old days'....[and that] tourism industry would likely suffer if visitors discovered their gentle refuge is in fact rife with brutalities that continue at the Shipshewana auction."
Shipshewana offers antique malls, specialty shops, furniture making by one of the largest Amish communities in the country, a water park, hotels, and much more. Shipshewana draws visitors from a 150-mile radius, including Chicago.
Of special interest - the same people who own the Shipshewana auction, the Lambright brothers, also own the "largest flea market in the Midwest," a restaurant, a 154-room hotel, a conference center, an RV park and a $3/day, 500+ car parking lot
AA plans to meet with the auction owners about last month's investigation. It would help make the meeting more productive if Shipshewana merchants and officials have heard from you, the concerned public. We feel that any of the following message content, conveyed with complete courtesy, would be effective in helping to gain the cooperation of auction owners:
I and my family have come to enjoy our many visits to Shipshewana (if this is something you can say) for business and for pleasure. Mayfest and the Fall Crafters Fair coming up next month are especially fun. We have had concerns about the treatment of animals at the auctions but we were relieved when we read that after one incident, Keith Lambright, an owner of Shipshewana Auction Inc. had all his people trained to handle animals humanely and said publicly he supports the proper and ethical treatment of animals. But, even though Mr. Lambright said the auction, "will not tolerate the mistreatment of any animal that enters the facility," bad things are still happening to animals at the Shipshewana Auction:
In August a horse with an apparent broken leg entered the facility. Accepted at the auction and instead of being properly euthanized on the spot, this mare was severely mistreated. She arrived laying in the bottom of a trailer.Extremely stressed and suffering, she was put into a pen and she laid out flat on the ground. Later they forced her to rise again and moved her from pen to pen. Then Mr. Lambright himself assisted in loading her into a trailer that took her away.
Downer cows were not given care or even water- water was not provided in any of the pens at either the livestock or the horse auction! A bull with an apparent broken leg was at the auction-Failure to provide care, including water and food, is neglect and illegal in Indiana (Indiana Code 35-46-3-7) Also, employees used a stun gun repeatedly on downer cows to get them loaded onto a truck going to the slaughter plant- we worry what this says about the safety of our food supply, as well as the humane treatment of animals.
Under the circumstances, with the way animals are treated at the Shipshewana Horse & Livestock Auction, we no longer wish to make Shipshewana a
destination, nor can we recommend that our friends do. Other places with offerings similar to Shipshewana, but without the animal cruelty issues are much more attractive.
We are contacting you hoping that the local community will do whatever is necessary to make things right so that we are able to return to your otherwise family-friendly community.
Northeast Indiana Fund (economic development)
Shipshewana Town Manager
Shipshewana Retail Merchants Association Phone/Fax (260) 768-7589 firstname.lastname@example.org
Indiana Office of Tourism Development
LaGrange County Economic DevelopmentKeith Gillenwaterphone: 260-499-4994 email@example.com
JoDee Hooley: Group Marketing jodee@LaGrangeCountyCVB.org
(800) 254-8090 Shipshewana Fall Crafters Fair
UPCOMING Oct 7-9phone 260/768-4008
Please contact some or all of the above organizations. By raising their concerns, you will help animals receive humane treatment. Forwarding to friends and family, especially to anyone living within a 150 mile radius of Shipshewana, Indiana, will add a firm boost to these efforts.
As always, thank you for helping us be there with the animals !