WESTPORT — Inadequate Barn Inspections is what led to the landmark tenant farm animal abuse case of 2016, according to Stop the Insanity founder Kathy Saylor-Feininger.
Now, Saylor-Feininger and other animal advocates voiced concern that just days before 2018 began, the town needed to conduct another approximate 100 inspections from 2017.
Selectmen and Town Administrator Timothy King told Saylor-Feininger and fellow Stop the Insanity member Constance Gee on Wednesday that steps have been taken to correct the issue. King said the town has approximately 166 barn inspections that must be conducted annually.
King said that Animal Control Officer Donna Lambert has assistants who were unavailable to conduct some of these barn inspections. Also, there was no available funds for Lambert to conduct this additional work.
King said after learning about these issues, a stipend was awarded to Lambert to finish the work.
Lambert could not be reached for comment. King noted on Wednesday that the town has conducted about half of the inspections.
Selectman Craig Dutra noted that these inspections should have been conducted in the fall, adding that late December is not the ideal time. The inspections are part of a state Department of Agricultural Resources mandate, and the barn book inspections are sent to the MDAR.
“This reeks of business as usual,” Gee said after Wednesday’s meetings. “It is incredibly exhausting to get any positive changes done in this town. … It is exhausting and frustrating.”
Saylor-Feininger noted that the Route 177 tenant farm case, which is in court and being prosecuted by the state attorney general’s office, was marred by inadequate barn inspections, according to state and local officials.
In 2016, former health board members reported that they were not granted full access to Richard Medeiros’ 72-acre tenant farm, leading to the second animal abuse case on that same property since 2010.
The AG’s office indicted more than dozen people last March, some with several counts of animal cruelty.
The case led to the removal of approximately 1,400 animals from the site.
“I hope you understand why we are concerned about this,” Saylor-Feininger told selectmen. “The barn books is how they (animal abuse cases) all started.”
Selectmen Vice Chairwoman Shana Shufelt, who chairs the Animal Action Committee, noted that better job descriptions needs to be highlighted. Shufelt said it should be clearly indicated which personnel members in town are responsible for animal inspections.
Selectmen Chairman Steven Ouellette noted that neighboring Dartmouth makes it clear, and Westport should follow suit.
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