Former Dairy Workers Wanted for Animal Abuse Allegedly Flee Country

Police are currently searching for three former employees of a Florida dairy who are accused of animal abuse.

CBS Miami reports the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office has located one of four people who had warrants issued for animal cruelty. Sheriff Noel Stephen says the warrants were put out for the four workers two days after an undercover video was released depicting alleged abuse at Larson Dairy Farm.

“We have only been able to locate one of those individuals on misdemeanor charges of kicking one of the cows. The other three individuals have absconded more than likely out of the country, the way that it looks right now based on our investigation,” Stephen says.

The Sheriff’s Office did not share where the former employees may have fled to.

In a statement released on Facebook, the Sheriff’s Office notes that two of the employees had been fired, while the other two were suspended by their employer. One of the suspended employees quit following the suspension. The three former workers all have felony warrants issued for cruelty to animals. 

Helias Cruz, who was arrested faces misdemeanor charges for cruelty to animals. 

Undercover videos were released earlier in November by the Miami-based animal rights group Animal Recovery Mission. The group shot video on two separate farms in Florida by having members of the organization gain employment at the dairies. In the case at Larson Dairy Farms, employees signed animal welfare forms stating they would immediately notify the dairy’s management if they saw animal abuse occurring.

In a previous statement Sheriff Stephen said the animal rights group had the videos for several weeks before publicizing them.

“According to what has been reported, the Animal Recovery Mission had three weeks of undercover investigating they conducted. Had this alleged abuse been brought to our attention, my deputies and detectives could have resolved this issue then,” Stephen says.

Burnham Dairy Farm, also in Okeechobee County, had an undercover video shot on its farm. The Miami Herald notes that no arrests have been made in the Burnham case.

Both dairies were placed on probation by Southeast Milk Inc. and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) for possibly violating Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program policy. Publix, the largest super market in Florida, has halted receiving milk from both farms.

Southeast Milk announced mandatory protocol changes on Nov. 27 that would be made under the guidance of the FARM Program.

“This past month has been a sobering reminder of the need not just for continuous improvement in our on-farm best practices, but also for continued adherence to the standards established by our industry,” says Emily Meredith, chief of staff for NMPF.



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