PETALUMA (CBS SF) — Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office deputies raided a duck factory in Petaluma Wednesday after an animal advocacy group released hidden camera video showing wounded and sick animals.

Mercy For Animals led the undercover sting at Reichardt Duck Farm, one of the largest duck farms in the country, revealing baby ducklings having their bills burned with hot metal and animals stuck on cage wires and in manure pits.

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The video was turned over to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, who along with veterinarians, raided the facility Wednesday, according to a Mercy For Animals press release.

Warning: Video contains disturbing content

“No responsible facility could allow such blatant animal cruelty and neglect,” California-based veterinarian Dr. Armaiti May said in a written statement to law enforcement. “Birds experience pain and suffering in a very similar way to humans and other mammals. The treatment of the ducks at this facility is completely unacceptable.”

The video shows ducks on barren wire with no access to water for swimming or bathing, which Mercy For Animals says lead to ducks developing crippling leg deformities and serious infections, among other problems.

Mercy For Animals’ Executive Director Nathan Runkle said he wants the Sonoma County District Attorney to hold the owners of Rechardt Duck Farm criminally accountable “for allowing this culture of cruelty and neglect to fester at its factory farm facility.”

San Francisco and Oakland Chinatown shops are reportedly major customers of the duck farm.

Reichardt Duck Farm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mercy For Animals presented video to the sheriff’s office about two and a half months ago after a female member of the group was hired as a barn cleaner at the farm and surreptitiously filmed the operation between July 7 and Aug. 7, according to Mercy For Animals.

Sheriff’s deputies examined the information, obtained a search warrant and went to the duck farm at 10 a.m. Wednesday, sheriff’s Sgt. Cecile Focha said.

Two deputies, a patrol sergeant, watch commander, crime scene investigator and Sonoma County Animal Care and Control officer served the search warrant. They were accompanied by a local veterinarian, a Southern California veterinarian and expert with a post-doctoral degree with an emphasis in waterfowl sciences.

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At the duck farm they spoke with John Reichardt who was cooperative and provided full access to the property, Focha said.

Reichardt guided the investigators on a tour and answered questions about the 200,000 ducks under his care and control. Preliminarily, the business was considered to be in compliance with industry standards and no arrests were made.

“There was nothing that shocked anyone or caused an arrest or citation. We’ve never had a complaint there,” Focha said.

The veterinarians and animal control officer will complete supplemental reports on their findings.

According to Mercy For Animals, the factory farm industry is unregulated and farm animals are exempted from anti-cruelty laws. The only potential violation is no access to water for the ducks, which is a law in California.

The allegations are still under investigation and the results will be submitted to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office for review, Focha said.


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