Two Florida Dairy Workers Sentenced for Animal Abuse

Two workers from a Florida dairy have been sentenced to 20 days in jail following an undercover video investigation by an animal rights group.

Fernando Lopez Cruz, 44, and Naul Dorantes-Garcia, 31, were both employed at McArthur Farms in Okeechobee County and were videoed abusing cows by an undercover activist. The video was released by Animal Recovery Mission, a Miami-based animal rights group, on Dec. 14, 2017 as part of a series of undercover videos shot on Florida dairy farms.

Cruz and Naul Dorantes-Garcia are being charged with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty after pleading no contest. They will serve 20 days in the Okeechobee County Jail, which can be done over the weekend in a work program if requested. The pair will then have a year of probation and must serve 72 hours of community service at an animal rescue.  Also, they must pay a $400 fine.

Local news reports indicate that Judge Jerald Bryant formerly worked on a dairy farm as he mentioned it during the sentencing.

“As a dairy farm worker, I never used a pipe or anything else to move a cow - they just move by themselves," Bryant says.

In the original charges Cruz allegedly hit cows with a PVC pipe and breaking a cow’s tail. Dorantes-Garcia allegedly put a propane torch in a cow’s face while flame trimming udders and hit cows with a PVC pipe.

Animal Recovery Mission founder Richard Couto was happy with the outcome.

“This being the first conviction in the history of the State of Florida, at a working dairy farm, I am pleased with the outcome, despite the light sentencing. This country has a long way to go in sentencing its animals abusers,” Cuoto says in a statement.

This is the first court case of what could be multiple animal abuse cases says Ashley Albright, attorney-in-charge of the Okeechobee County Office for the 19th Judicial Circuit Office of the State Attorney. There are two more dairy workers who have yet to be prosecuted and warrants are out for two or three more.

“I think these were fair sentences,” Albright says. “Neither of them had a criminal record. Certainly what they did was inappropriate, and they deserved to be punished for it, and they acknowledged it.”

In the late summer and early fall, Animal Recovery Mission shot undercover videos on four Florida dairies including: Davie Dairy, Larson Dairy Farms, Burnham Dairy Farm and McArthur Farms. The videos were not released until several months later during November and December. 

Southeast Milk, Inc., the cooperative for all the farms involved, has implemented training programs to address the animal handling issues with the help of the National Milk Producers Federation.

For seven tips on how to protect yourself and your farm from an undercover video read the following story from our fiends at Farm Journal's MILK: