Auction yard owner: Address animal abuse right away
By TIM HEARDEN
TURLOCK, Calif. - Max Olvera knows what it's like to have animal welfare activists show up at his operation and look for instances of abuse.
Nowadays when they want to take video footage, they don't show up with big TV cameras, he said. They can shoot video or photos with their tiny phones.
But he doesn't fear them, he said.
"We've got nothing to hide," said Olvera, co-owner of the Turlock Livestock Auction Yard. "Our business revolves around the customer. We've got to take care of our consigners, our cattle producers, and we've got to take care of our buyers. So it's in our best interest to take good care of the cattle."
Olvera is among the supporters of California's Assembly Bill 343, which would require those who document agricultural animal abuse to share the information promptly with law enforcement.
The California Cattlemen's Association-backed bill by Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, would give people who "knowingly or willingly" take photographs or video of abuse 48 hours to provide copies to the local police or sheriff's department.
The bill also encourages that such footage be promptly shared with the owner of the operation, and it extends California's existing whistleblower protections to employees who document abuse at their jobs.
Olvera said his operation has numerous safeguards in place to ensure that animals are properly cared for. His facility has shade and sprinklers and ready access to feed and water, and a veterinarian is nearby if any health issues arise, he said.
"If they do get a hold of something on video that's not right, showing an animal that's suffering or an animal that got hurt, just like the bill says, let's do something about it now," Olvera said. "I want to know if I've got a problem."
Olvera added that sickly animals that arrive in trailers aren't accepted under the market's protocol.
"I think every market in California has the same outlook as I do on that," he said.
California's proposal comes as some states have considered making it a crime to surreptitiously get into a farming operation to record video of animal abuse. Justin Oldfield, the CCA's vice president of government relations, said the organization wouldn't support such a measure in the Golden State.
But Olvera would, he said. The reason is that the people who do the recording or edit the footage "are wanting to twist it and wanting to make it look worse than it is," he said.
The Patterson bill is a "happy medium," he said.
"If there was something criminal done, turn it in to law enforcement and get it taken care of right now," he said. "If there's something there to take care of, I want to do it now."
Turlock Livestock Auction Yard: http://www.turlocklivestock.com/