3 people charged in animal cruelty investigation at Fair Oaks Farms identified

Screenshot of Fair Oaks Farms video courtesy of Animal Recovery Mission

FAIR OAKS, Ind. – Charges have been filed against three people in connection with the animal cruelty investigation at Fair Oaks Farms.

The Newton County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday that the three individuals are being charged with beating a vertebrate animal, a class A misdemeanor.

On Tuesday, the suspects were identified as Santiago Ruvalcaba Contreros, 31, Edgar Gardozo Vazquez, 36 and Miguel Angel Navarro Serrano, 38. They have not been arrested and police say they are looking for the suspects.

Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office Chief Deputy Joe Villanueva can’t speak about the Fair Oaks case directly, but he knows how a prosecutor’s office works.

He says they must look at the evidence given to them to make a charging decision.

Under Indiana law animal abuse is a misdemeanor, but the offense can be a level 6 felony if the person has an unrelated previous convention for animal abuse.

also, if the person committed the offense with the intent to hurt a family or household member.

“Under some new laws changes July 1 abuse will still be a misdemeanor offense but torture and mutilation will be elevated to level 6 felony offenses,” ohnson County Prosecutor’s Office Chief Deputy Joe Villanueva  said.

With new animal laws going into effect next month; Villanueva says Indiana law has really caught up with protecting animals.

“I think society has grown and changed. Animals are like family especially domesticated animals. I think the law has come up to date with the way people care about their animals,” Villanueva  said.

The sheriff’s office says other persons of interest are being interviewed.

“Details of the investigation cannot be released at this time as this investigation is still active,” wrote the sheriff’s office.

The investigation stems from a disturbing video released by a nonprofit called Animal Recovery Mission last week, in which employees are seen abusing calves and using drugs at the farm.

Richard Couto, the founder of Animal Recovery Mission, told FOX59 that he sent a private investigator to the farms to see what guests of the popular tourist spot don’t see. The investigator was hired as a calf-care employee from August 2018 until November 2018, to record what happens behind the scenes.

“The animal abuse began day one, hour one of our employment at Fair Oaks Farms,” Couto said.

Fair Oaks is one of the largest dairy operations in the Hoosier State. It has more than 10 different locations and farms around northwest Indiana.

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