The deaths of 832 hogs at a central Pennsylvania farm have led to 832 charges of animal cruelty against the Maryland man who authorities say was responsible for them.
A criminal complaint filed Thursday alleges that Daniel Lee Clark Sr., 47, now of Clear Spring, Md., left the hogs to die when he abandoned his Fulton County farm in February 2009. The charges are summary offenses.
Clark's lawyer said that he had not seen the charges but that his client had "a very different version" of what happened to the animals.
By the time the hogs were found last month, "they were basically mummified," state police Lt. Gregory M. Bacher said.
A real estate agent inspecting the property on Nov. 8 discovered the cadavers in two large metal barns and called authorities, Bacher said.
"Because the carcasses were so far gone as far as being mummified, necropsy could not really provide any details of how they died," he said. "We can't really say whether they starved."
He said the livestock might have died of cold, heat, thirst, or disease, or some combination. "Some were very young and some were ready for sale," Bacher said.
Clark's estranged wife co-owned the farm but was not charged because he was the animals' caretaker, Bacher said.
Under state law, if someone other than the hogs' owner had caused the deaths, felony charges could have been filed. Because Clark owned the hogs, lesser charges applied.
"I don't want to belittle the charges, but this is like getting 832 tickets," Bacher said. "Each one is a summary offense."
Animal-welfare advocates described the case as the biggest of its kind they had seen.
Tim Rickey, ASPCA senior director of field investigations and response, who helped lead the investigation, said the evidence supported the number of charges.
"I am extremely pleased that the local district attorney is holding this guy accountable," Rickey said. "This is a very significant and large animal-cruelty case in Pennsylvania, and this sends a message."
Rickey said he believed the charges should have been misdemeanors or felonies, but understood the law's limits.
Clint Barkdoll, Clark's lawyer, said neither he nor his client had seen the charges yet and could not comment on them. He said Clark was "devastated by what happened" and said they had not yet determined how he would plead.
"There is a very different version of these events," he said, "and he looks forward to presenting his side of the case."