Idaho dairy worker sentenced for animal cruelty

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — A former employee at a south-central Idaho dairy has been sentenced to 180 days in jail and two years of probation after an undercover video shot by an animal rights group showed workers stomping, dragging and beating cows inside a milking barn.

The Times-News reports that Javier Victor Rojas-Loayza, 40, received the sentence Wednesday in 5th District Court.

Judge Calvin Campbell suspended 170 days and gave one day credit. He ordered the remaining nine days be spent on a sheriff’s work detail. Rojas-Loayza must also pay $475 in fines and fees, and is banned from herding or supervising animals during his probation.

Rojas-Loayza pleaded guilty in May to misdemeanor animal abuse following events recorded in the video at Bettencourt Dairies’ Dry Creek Dairy in Hansen. Luis Bettencourt sold the dairy earlier this year.

The video was shot using a hidden camera by a member of Mercy for Animals who got a job at Dry Creek Dairy for a few weeks in 2012. Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said he filed misdemeanor animal cruelty charges in late August that year after an investigation that was prompted by the video.

The video shows workers at the dairy beating cows with a pink cane as the animals slipped and slid on the wet concrete floor; workers kicking and stomping cows that had fallen between the metal bars in the milking stalls; and a cow being dragged out of the barn by a chain around her neck as she lies on the concrete floor.

Prosecutors say the video showed Rojas-Loayza striking and jabbing at cows with a cane in the face and head.

“I acted that way because the person in charge told us that was the way we did it,” Rojas-Loayza told Campbell, but he also apologized for his actions.

Rojas-Loayza criticized the person who took the video.

“If he is the person he says he is, a person who protects animals, he should have stopped and said, ‘Hey, stop, that’s wrong,’ and then correct us,” Rojas-Loayza said. “But he never said a word until the government came to the dairy.”

Campbell said Rojasj-Loayza’s actions weren’t “done with sadistic intent or sadistic pleasure of cruelty to animals.”

Another worker in the video, Jesus Garza, in February was sentenced to a year of probation and given credit for 102 days in jail while awaiting trial. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal abuse. He’s also banned from working with animals and received a fine of $500, with $250 suspended.

A third worker, Jose Acensio, is charged with two counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty, but authorities haven’t been able to locate him to make an arrest.

The video prompted Idaho lawmakers to pass a law criminalizing surreptitious recording at agriculture facilities.

Animal rights, civil liberties and environmental groups are suing the state to overturn the so-called ag-gag law. The law, which lawmakers passed in February, was backed by Idaho’s $2.5 billion annual dairy industry.

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