USDA inspectors took pictures of sick and malnourished goats at a facility run by Santa Cruz Biotechnology. Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now!, got them through a Freedom of Information request. He showed the photos during a news conference in Santa Cruz to expose what he calls serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
"If a private individual allowed animals to suffer this way in their own care, you would be in jail," said Budkie.
The USDA documented its concerns in reports after two inspections last year -- one in May and one in July. The July report noted 178 goats were in isolation for various medical reasons. The May report included details of a goat with a baseball-sized tumor. The animal had not been put down despite that request from the attending veterinarian.
Santa Cruz Biotechnology raises animals to produce antibodies sold to researchers. The company did not respond to our repeated efforts Monday for a comment on the issue, but there are concerns in the community.
"I think generally people want the right animals to be treated properly and the fact that it's happening is appalling," said Benita Beshoar of Scotts Valley.
The USDA does not consider the 2010 conditions violations, but rather items of non-compliance which need to be corrected.
"The fact is, until the USDA does something substantial, such as issuing a major fine against this facility, they really have no motivation to stop breaking the law," said Budkie.
Budkie is demanding the agency levy the maximum fine in the amount of $240,000.