After an investigation, the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department, SPCA and Farm Sanctuary of Watkins Glen seized 85 pigs in emaciated condition in two barns on Folts Road in Ashford on Wednesday, Jan. 17. The owner, Gerald Nason Jr., 56, was charged with four counts of cruelty to animals, a class A misdemeanor, and four counts of second-degree cruelty to animals, an unclassified misdemeanor. Photo by Rick Miller

By Rick Miller

ASHFORD — Eighty-five pigs, many severely emaciated, were seized last week from two unheated barns on Folts Road in Ashford.

The Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department, SPCA and the Ashford animal control officer responded to numerous complaints of hungry pigs kept in poor conditions.

Sheriff’s deputies on Jan. 20 charged Gerald Nason Jr., 56, with four counts of cruelty to animals, a class A misdemeanor, and four counts of second-degree cruelty to animals, an unclassified misdemeanor. He was remanded to the Cattaraugus County Jail in lieu of $1,000 bail, or $2,500 bond.

After an initial investigation of the condition of the pigs, the Farm Sanctuary of Watkins Glen was called in because the number of animals would be overwhelming for the SPCA. The same non profit group aided the SPCA two years ago in a similar animal cruelty case in Farmersville.

Ginger Schroeder, an attorney representing the Cattaraugus County SPCA who was at the scene on Wednesday, Jan. 17, said the animals were seized on an order signed by Cattaraugus County Court Judge Ronald D. Ploetz.

Most of the were being kept in dark, unheated and unventilated barns and many were visibly emaciated, Schroeder said on Jan. 19.

The 25 pigs in the worst condition were taken to the Cornell University Farm Animal Clinic. Others were taken to the Farm Sanctuary where they will be cared for and nursed back to health, she said. Others in better health were fostered out to area farmers who helped in the pigs seizure.

Schroeder said all three agencies are cooperating in the investigation.

The pigs were seized from barns at 5119 and 5117 Folts Road. Nason’s parents own the parcel at 5117 Folts Road, but Schroeder said investigators do not believe the parents were aware of the conditions the pigs were being kept in. Some pigs were being housed in a horse trailer.

“It was horrible,” Schroeder said of the conditions. Many of the pigs, besides being severely emaciated, had mange and respiratory problems from the lack of ventilation. “We were investigating for a few weeks. There was never any food.”

The owner of the property at 5119 Folts Road, Connie Lipka, gave investigators permission to check on the pigs.

It is not the first time Nason has been charged with animal cruelty. In 2002, he was arrested for multiple animal cruelty charges involving 128 pigs, Schroeder said. He was convicted the following year and sentenced to three years probation during which time he could not own any animals and $3,000 in restitution to the SPCA. Nason was also required to complete an SPCA-approved course before he could own any animals after his probation.

On Jan. 19, a 600-pound boar was the only pig left in the two barns. Schroeder said, “As of Saturday (Jan. 20), they will all be gone” from the Folts Road properties.

Schroeder said one sow lost eight of 17 piglets because she was too emaciated.

She said she does not expect any charges to be filed until after the Cornell veterinarians issue a report on the pigs they treated.

Two years ago, a Farmersville couple were charged with animal cruelty in connection with more than 100 animals at their farm including horses, cows and geese.

In response to that, Cattaraugus County lawmakers enacted a local law that creates a registry of people charged with animal cruelty and restricts their ability to own animals in the future.