Pennsylvania Superior Court Directs District Attorney to Pursue Cruelty Case Against Dairy Farm

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania ruled that a lower court erred in finding that a private criminal complaint submitted by Animal Outlook (AO) alleging hundreds of animal cruelty violations against cows and calves at Martin Farms dairy farm did not warrant prosecution. Following AO’s undercover investigation that captured downed cows being dragged, calves having their horns burned off, excessive use of electric shock, and gratuitous tail pulling and twisting, AO submitted a private criminal complaint, but the District Attorney declined to prosecute. Under Pennsylvania law, when a prosecutor refuses to bring criminal charges based on a private complaint, the private complainant can ask a court to order the prosecutor to file charges. When AO sought such an order the trial court sided with the DA. On appeal of the trial court’s decision, the Superior Court found that AO “provided sufficient evidence to show prima facie cases of neglect, cruelty, and aggravated cruelty” that did not fall within the “agricultural operation” exception to animal cruelty. The Superior Court then remanded the matter to the trial court, with directions for the trial court to order the DA to “accept and transmit for prosecution … [AO’s] private criminal complaint.”