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Idaho dairy workers charged with animal cruelty

BOISE, Idaho — Three former workers of Idaho’s largest dairy operation have been charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty after undercover video shot by an animal rights group showed workers stomping, dragging, and beating cows inside a milking barn.

The video was shot using a hidden camera by a member of Mercy for Animals who got a job at Bettencourt Dairies’ Dry Creek Dairy in Hansen for a few weeks this summer.

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It shows workers at the dairy beating cows with a pink cane as the animals slipped and slid on the wet concrete floor; workers kicking, shoving, and stomping cows that have fallen between the metal bars in the milking stalls; and a cow being dragged out of the barn by a chain around her neck as she lies prone on the concrete floor.

Twin Falls County prosecutor Grant Loebs said he filed misdemeanor animal cruelty charges against Jesus Garza, Jose Acensio, and Javier Victor Rojas Loayza in late August after an investigation that was prompted by the video. If convicted, the men face fines of up to $5,000 each and six months of jail time on a first offense.

Luis Bettencourt, the owner of the dairy, said that when the Idaho Department of Agriculture told him about the video and allegations, he was ‘‘sick about it.’’ Bettencourt’s dairy operation is the largest in Idaho, with 13 facilities and about 60,000 milk cows.

‘‘We don’t tolerate animal abuse. That’s a big issue for us,’’ Bettencourt said. ‘‘I love my animals and I’ve been in the dairy business since I was a kid. Animal care is a number one issue in our facilities.’’

Bettencourt said officials with the Idaho Department of Agriculture showed him the footage in August and he fired the five workers seen in the video the next day. In the weeks since, he said he has installed video cameras throughout his facilities and hired an additional supervisor.

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