Press Release

Amid Global Pandemic, Farm Sanctuary Leads Team Effort to Rescue 113 Animals from Illegal Backyard Butcher Operation in Florida

Press Release

Amid Global Pandemic, Farm Sanctuary Leads Team Effort to Rescue 113 Animals from Illegal Backyard Butcher Operation in Florida

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Under the dark cloud of COVID-19, sanctuaries in “The Sunshine State” team up to provide a ray of light for some severely neglected animals

FORT MYERS, FL – Last Wednesday, April 22, on a sweltering hot Florida day and under the specter of COVID-19, rescuers from Farm Sanctuary, America’s premier farm animal sanctuary and advocacy organization, in conjunction with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals, donned face masks while orchestrating the rescue of 113 live animals from an illegal backyard butcher operation in Fort Myers, FL. The animals (including 46 ducks, 55 chickens, three sheep, five goats, two pigs, one goose, and a pony) were living in appalling, unsafe and filthy conditions, the majority crammed inside wire cages with insufficient access to water and shade. Many had visible sores. A young pig was found lying in his own waste, unable to get up, on a concrete stone floor. The only source of water was a children’s swimming pool filled with green sludge. At the center of the grisly scene, a table on which laid a machete. 

The rescue came after the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the owners of the properties for running an illegal backyard slaughter operation, which violates Florida state law, and received a court order to remove the animals on the property. Farm Sanctuary was appointed to rescue, transport, and secure sanctuary homes for the animals. Five Florida-based sanctuaries, including Kindred Spirits Sanctuary (Citra, FL), Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary (Gainesville, FL), Peacefield Farm Sanctuary (Newberry, FL), Yesahcan Sanctuary, Inc. (Arcadia, FL), and Shelter Farm Sanctuary (Arcadia, FL), participated in the rescue.  

“COVID-19 has put a spotlight on our broken food system and the great suffering that industrial animal agriculture creates for both workers and animals. Less visible are illegal backyard butchers like this one, where animals are also forced to live in inhumane and unsanitary conditions,” says Farm Sanctuary CEO Megan Watkins. “We are grateful to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, and the incredible Florida-based sanctuaries who rallied when called to make this rescue possible, even during the pandemic.”

“Backyard slaughter operations inflict pain on animals before illegally slaughtering them,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “This rescue is not only a victory for the animals now moved to sanctuaries, but affirms that Floridians have a pathway to enforce their state’s animal cruelty laws.”

Over the course of its nearly 35 year history, Farm Sanctuary has rescued hundreds of animals from backyard butcher operations, including more than 60 starving animals from a property in Cattaraugus County, NY that rescuers described as “Silence of the Lambs” meets “Little Shop of Horrors,” and nearly 400 animals from a so-called “humane” farm-to-table operation, also in Cattaraugus County.

About the Animal Legal Defense Fund
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit

About Farm Sanctuary

Founded in 1986, Farm Sanctuary works to change how our society views and treats farm animals through rescue, education and advocacy. The organization provides lifelong care for animals rescued from abuse at sanctuary locations in New York and California; promotes compassionate vegan living; and advocates legal and policy reforms. To learn more about Farm Sanctuary, visit