Barring a last-minute legal intervention, which appears unlikely, federal, state and county authorities have put the nearly 400 animals at Lory Yazurlo’s 15-year-old Pig Tales Sanctuary in Bunnell on death row.
Flagler County Administrator endorsed recommendations from the federal and state departments of agriculture to euthanize the pigs, without exception, soon. A date or place for the operation has not been determined.
“Mr. Coffey has agreed to move forward with the recommendation of the USDA for humane reasons and also to protect the public,” Sally Sherman, Flagler County’s deputy administrator, said this morning. Coffey is off today.
- USDA’s Recommendation to Euthanize
- Craig Coffey’s Letter to the State Attorney and the USDA’s Report
- County Court’s Sentencing Order
- Lory Yazurlo’s Pig Tales Website
The fate of the pigs is ultimately in the county’s hands, not state or federal authorities, which are only recommending, not ordering, euthanizing the animals. A court order against Yazurlo, signed by County Judge Sharon Atack on Nov. 9, gave the county “immediate custody” of the pigs, which have been quarantined at the sanctuary for several years, “and assume responsibility for the care of said animals and to coordinate care for the animals with the appropriate state and federal authorities.” The order said nothing about euthanizing the pigs. The Flagler County Humane Society has been feeding the pigs since the order was handed down. George Pavone, Yazurlo’s companion and helper at the sanctuary, says the society has not taken adequate measures to water the pigs. But he and Yazurlo are barred from helping.
The county on Thursday released a statement that it was “the collective decision of all the agencies involved that the only course of action is to remove approximately 400 pigs from the property and euthanize them for both disease control and humane reasons.” Carl Laundrie, the county’s spokesman, would not specify who in the administration had actually made the decision to endorse state and federal recommendations to endorse the federal and state recommendations, attributing the decision to the “county administration.”
County Attorney Al Hadeed, Coffey and Sherman have all worked on the issue, but it is ultimately Coffey’s decision, or that of the county commission, to sign off. The county commission has been kept informed of every step in the process. But it has not yet acted to take responsibility for whatever decision is actually made. County Commission Chairman George Hanns and Commissioner Barbara Revels said they may well do so at the commission’s meeting on Monday (Nov. 15, at 5 p.m.).
“Maybe for coverage for our staff we need to do that,” Revels said, recognizing the sensitivity off the issue–and why the administration might be hesitant to put a face to what, ultimately, is a fatal decision for the pigs. “Everyone has always been very, very careful in how their action have been taken for the owner of Pig Tales, Ms. Yazurlo, because of her condition and her position. Everyone has really tried to bend over backward to make sure everything has been done properly. So I believe there is a sensitivity to the entire situation.”
Whatever the county was to decide, it was not going to come out looking good for one group or another. If it did not address the situation, it would be criticized for letting a potentially hazardous public health issue fester. It would also be criticized for assuming the financial responsibility of feeding and caring for the pigs, at more than $100 a day, a responsibility the county neither wants nor can afford. By endorsing the recommendation to euthanize the pigs, the county runs the risk of looking cruel and attracting the wrath of animal-protection advocates locally and elsewhere: shooting pigs in a sanctuary doesn’t look good.
So the county has tried to dilute its direct decision-making involvement by ascribing the decision to a collective effort with federal and state authorities–which, in fact, it is.
On Nov. 10, the United States Department of Agriculture’s C. Dix Harrell, the assistant area veterinarian in charge, wrote Coffey that based on state and federal findings, the agency’s recommendation “is that the herd be humanely euthanized and disposed of.” Dix noted, using another euphemism for killing the pigs: “Depopulation is is conducted as a whole herd operation and not on a piecemeal basis.” The reason: the USDA is blaming the likely prevalence of two diseases among the pigs. Yazurlo disputes those findings.
Dix added: “There are other potential courses of action; however, they entail prolongation of the situation and uncertainty regarding an actual resolution of the disease situation.” (Read the full letter.)
Yazurlo will not be compensated monetarily or otherwise for her losses. Whether she may have bills to pay as a result of the government agencies’ actions is not yet clear. Sherman said those numbers have not been tallied yet, nor a decision made about whether to assess costs or the operation to Yazurlo. Nor have dates or manner of execution been worked out for the euthanization. “We’re still working wit USDA and a number of agencies in order to move forward with the actual operation, so that has not been determined,” Sherman said. “We are working quickly because it is imperative that we address the matter.”
Solid plans have not been conveyed to county commissioners.
“I do not have in my possession, nor have I seen , a game plan,” Hanns, the commission chairman, said Thursday evening, though he was not opposing the euthanization recommendation. Like Revels, he said the commission was likely to take up the matter formally on Monday.