The owner of a Madison County farm where up to a 100 dead animals were found said he became overwhelmed and was unable to take care of them.
Fox59 spoke to Daniel Ault at the meat processing facility he runs in Grant County. He says the dozens of horses, cows, sheep and chickens started dying during the winter and he was unable to keep up with their care.
He admits to storing the dead animals in the barn to hide them from public view. Ault also told Fox59 the meat plant, which he recently bought, took all his time and money away from caring for the farm animals.
“That’s been over a four month period,” Ault said. “I haven’t moved them out or done anything with them in over a four month period, that’s almost November. And I have just not disposed of them properly.”
When asked why he allowed the animals to rot in the barn where other animals were suffering from malnutrition, Ault said he intended to move them out this week but didn’t get to it before authorities were called to the property.
“I didn’t have the equipment there to get them removed and I was planning on removing them this week,” Ault said. But it’s just all snowballed and it’s all come to a bad end.”
Madison County authorities said they were called to the farm after neighbors reported the terrible smell.
Sheriff Ron Richardson said the situation is like nothing he has ever seen.
“I think we’re all very emotional about how these animals were not taken care of,” Richardson said.
Among the dead and rotting carcasses were about thirty surviving animals, which were suffering from severe malnutrition.
Hazmat crews spent all of Wednesday removing animals from the barn. Then, the Madison County Health Department took samples from surrounding land and groundwater to test for disease and contamination.
Several larger animals were to be taken to Purdue University for autopsies in order to determine the exact cause of death.
Large digging equipment was brought in to prepare to bury all the dead animals on the property.
Sheriff Richardson said the entire process would be long and expensive, and taxpayers are paying the bill for now. Authorities hope to eventually recoup that money, but it’s not clear how or when that would happen.
Police and Animal Care and Control officers were preparing to transport surviving animals off the farm.
Several concerned citizens also arrived Wednesday evening to help move those animals or take them in.
One employee of the sheriff’s department told reporters that he believed criminal charges were likely in the case, although the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office will make that decision.
Ault has several prior charges related to animal cruelty or neglect related to his auction house in Hamilton County.
Investigators also think that he was living in one of the barns on the property along with his wife Carrie and their two children at one point.
“There was actually human feces in a five-gallon buckets, allegedly children living in those conditions so CPS was here last night,” Richardson said.
The Aults still have custody of their two young children as of Wednesday evening. They are staying at a different location.
When asked if he would be surprised if police came to arrest him, Ault stated, “No, I guess it wouldn’t surprise me, I guess.”