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Farm raided, dead cows found, man charged with felonies

By John Estridge, Editor

A West College Corner farm was raided on Tuesday, March 5, leading to the finding of 38 dead cows in various stages of decomposition.

This led to the arrest of Rodney Sintz, 42, who was charged with six crimes, three Level 6 felonies and three class A misdemeanors.

According to a report written by Dr. Melissa Justice, a veterinarian with the Board of Animal Health (BOAH), the Union County Health Department requested BOAH take a look at the animals on the property.

Sintz was not present during the inspection; however, during the inspection, Justice found 38 bovine carcasses. Another 60-100 living cattle and calves were found in various places on the farm located at 6501 South Brookville Pike.

Justice said she examined the cattle’s body condition using a scoring system published in the Pfizer Cowcalf Health Reference Manual pages 60-62. That system uses a range of 1.0 for emaciated cattle to 9.0 for extremely fat beef cattle. Normal body condition using the system is considered to be in the 4.0-6.0 range.

The cattle were in three locations on the farm: 15-30 were in one paddock which did not have any water and a small amount of roughage; 15-30 were being kept in the central barn lot and did not have access to food or water at the time of evaluation; and 30-40 cows were kept in a large pasture with access to a flowing creek.

On the latter, it appeared “the cattle did not have access to food other than pasture grasses which is considered to have low nutritive value during this time of year.”

According to Justice, she was unable to evaluate the cattle individually because they could not be restrained. Thus, she evaluated them as a group.

Justice said the majority of the cattle appeared to score below the normal body condition range based off the scale.

“Most of the animals were considered to be thin using this system,” Justice wrote in her report.

Also, Justice noted the areas where the cattle were kept, especially the barn area, were not safe for the cattle.

“The central barn lot and associated paddocks had a large amount of metal debris which could be hazardous to the cattle being kept in this location,” Justice said. “The upper level of the barn which these cattle had access to was considered to be unsafe for the animals to inhabit. The floor was covered in at least 12 inches of manure. Several locations of the barn floor were open to the level below which could allow the cows and calves to become entrapped or fall approximately eight to 10 feet to the lower barn floor.

“The hay doors were opened on the side of the barn which could allow the animals to fall to the ground below,” she continued. “The cows had access to a machine shed which had equipment and gates which were considered dangerous for the animals.”

Due to these reasons, Justice recommended for the Union County authorities to remove the cattle from the farm “and place them in an environment where they can be consistently provided with adequate food and water and receive veterinary care as indicated by the condition of the individual animal.”

Thus, Union Circuit Court Judge Matthew Cox issued an order to that affect on Friday, March 8.

Concerning the dead cattle, Justice said Indiana law requires deceased animals to be properly disposed of within 24 hours of the owner’s knowledge of the animal’s death.

According to a press release from the Union County Sheriff’s Department, UCSD officers along with Butler County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Ryan Jones served an arrest warrant on Sintz Friday, March 8, and Sintz was taken into custody without incident.

He was lodged in the Union County Jail under $50,000 bond.

Six charges were filed by the Union County Prosecutor’s office.

There were three Level 6 Felony counts of Failure to Dispose of Body of Dead Animal and three Class A misdemeanor counts of Abandoned, Neglected Animal.

If convicted of a Level 6 Felony, Sintz could receive a sentence ranging from six months to two-and-a-half years in jail. A class A misdemeanor conviction could lead to a sentence of up to one year in jail.

An initial hearing was held on Monday, March 11. Sintz apparently pleaded not guilty at the hearing because a pretrial conference was scheduled for Wednesday, May 8 and a jury trial date was set for Tuesday, June 18.