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Group Alleges Cow Abuse

November 21, 2006

Group alleges cow mistreatment

Alligator Writer

Every day for two and a half years, Patricia Cacace petted her cows at UF's Dairy Research Unit to prove they were worth more than milk to her. But Cacace had never before stroked a cow while its brains oozed out of its head.

Cacace, who worked at the unit as an animal caretaker, did just that one day after a hunter's errant bullet pierced Ruby the cow's skull. Ruby, the gentlest of the group, was left unattended for two days before she received veterinary help, Cacace said.

Now an animal rights group may sue UF's dairy unit to protest what they call the poor treatment of its cows.

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida sent a series of complaints to the unit's coordinator, David Armstrong, and two other UF officials on Monday. The complaints said the unit has allowed hunters too close to cows, failed to provide a safe environment for animals and employed cruel euthanasia practices.

Some cows that were euthanized by being shot to death were shot several times before finally dying, Cacace said. She was fired from her job Oct. 20 after employers said she wasn't working enough.

In a letter to the unit, ARFF wrote, "Although gunshot is an industry-accepted method of euthanasia, we are concerned that current practices add to the stress and suffering of the animal."

Armstrong declined to comment Monday. Joel Brendemuhl, undergraduate coordinator for UF's Department of Animal Sciences, and R. Kirby Barrick, dean of UF's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, also were sent the letter but could not be reached for comment.

Cacace said she approached ARFF after she was fired because she worried about the cows' well-being and because many died unnaturally while she worked there.

"I've watched so many of them die in the past two years, it's not even funny," Cacace said.

She described the filth some cows endure on a daily basis and said some have to stand for up to 10 hours a day in their own waste before their quarters are washed.

"As high as the boots would go, sometimes that's how high (the waste) goes," she said.

She described the "please-kill-me" looks that some cows wear on their faces because of the "horrible" conditions.

The letter says that though some of the practices at UF's dairy unit are technically legal, they are subpar for what's expected from UF.

Cacace gave ARFF volunteer Nick Atwood a tour of the farm, which she said is a public facility, earlier this month after she had been fired.

Atwood, who is a vegan, said the way most dairy farms treat their cows marks a far cry from the way cows used to be raised.

"Dairy isn't happy cows in a field anymore," he said. "It's a very unnatural environment for them."

He said he carried his video camera with him in plain view during the tour of the facility to document his trip and even met Armstrong. Atwood didn't tell Armstrong he was affiliated with an animal rights
group, he said.

"I was kind of surprised he didn't question why I was filming or even why I was there," he said.

The video of Atwood's tour will be posted on ARFF's Web site if UF doesn't respond to the complaints within a few weeks, he said.

"Our aim is to have the university make changes to the management of the Dairy Research Unit that will benefit animals," he said.

For now, Cacace is still worried about the cows - particularly Ruby, who survived her gunshot wound.

But Cacace isn't optimistic about her chances for a normal life. "She'll wind up dying like the rest of them," she said.


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