Animal Exhibitor Denies Cruelty to Animal Charges
BOSTON (AP) _ An animal exhibitor charged with cruelty after officials seized two of his tigers on a New Hampshire farm and an elephant in a Massachusetts parking lot said Tuesday he is the victim of fanatics.
Brian Watson, 42, who has owned and operated the East Coast Camel Co. in Essex for 22 years, is charged with animal cruelty and stealing back six monkeys and a camel taken from him by the Animal Rescue League of Boston.
League officials say inspections of the Essex farm found unsanitary conditions, cramped quarters and sick and dying animals.
″This is the worst case of cruelty I’ve seen in my 15 years with the league,″ said Richard W. Bryant, prosecuting state officer for the organization. ″Some of the animals were in pretty rough shape and their quarters were filthy. We have witnesses who have seen him beating the animals.″
But Watson said league officials and inspectors for the U.S. Department of Agriculture took some minor problems with ″dust and cobwebs″ and blew them out of proportion.
″It’s absolutely a vendetta,″ Watson said in a telephone interview. ″They figure I represent an animal business that they don’t think should be in business.″
″Over a period of time, as anyone in the animal business will tell you, they get a little grief from the USDA and the Animal Rescue League. Maybe some of it’s a little bit legitimate, (like) you didn’t clean the pen real good today.″ But, he said, some charges are picky and others simply false.
Watson, who used the lions, tigers, camel, elephant, exotic birds, horses, pigs, monkeys and sheep at rural fairs and for commercial promotions, said the animals generally were well-kept and healthy.
″It’s fanatical,″ he said. ″I can go to your house and find that your dog tipped his water over and say you’re cruel.″
League officials and veterinarians, however, tell a different story.
Acting on a tip, league officials in June said they saw foot-deep mud and manure, tight quarters, numerous skinny, sick-looking animals and two dead goats, said spokeswoman Carol McCarthy.
The officials, armed with a search warrant, seized a cow, pony, goat and pig that the league said were underweight and had parasites. Watson, however, said the animals were all recently purchased and he was in the process of fattening them.
During a second search in August, league officials took more animals away for treatment. On Oct. 8, a camel and six monkeys were reported stolen from the Southwick Wild Animal Farm in Mendon, a private zoo where some of the animals were being kept. Police issued an arrest warrant for Watson.
He had moved the rest of his animals to a tent on a dairy farm in Epping, N.H. - not to avoid Massachusetts authorities, he said, but to give himself time and space to clean the Essex farm.
Friday, when the tent was found, league officials from Massachusetts reclaimed the camel and six monkeys. New Hampshire Fish and Game Department officials seized an African lion, two Bengal tigers, a jaguar and a half-dozen exotic birds.
Dozens of goats and sheep, two ponies, a horse, a donkey and the elephant were left behind. But on Sunday, officials discovered most of those animals had disappeared.
Watson, who was being sought by police in both states, said he packed most of the remaining animals into a trailer and started driving them back to Essex.
But, he said, the trailer got a flat, so he left it in a parking lot in Danvers and returned to New Hampshire to get other belongings. He was arrested there Monday while officials spent most of the day trying to get ″Ruthie,″ the elephant, out of the trailer in Danvers.