On a mission to expose the sad plight of small animals sold at auction, Animals’ Angels investigated the Middleburg Auction in Pennsylvania which routinely sells chickens, ducks, rabbits, turkeys, pheasants, quails, geese, and guinea pigs.
Our investigators arrived at the auction on June 8, 2021, a particularly hot and humid summer day. The outside auction started at 1:00 p.m., just as the temperature reached its peaked of 90°. Covered only by a simple roof, the animals at the auction were given no water, and fans installed in the area were kept off, denying the poor animals any relief from the stifling heat. Our investigators immediately saw that many birds were panting with open beaks, in obvious distress.
It was also apparent to our investigators that auction staff weren’t concerned about the containers and cages that could be used to bring in animals who were to be sold at auction. Our team was horrified to see many animals arrive in closed cardboard boxes. Many of these containers provided no ventilation, although a few appeared to have air holes or homemade wire on top.
Investigators observed several dented cages with sharp edges and were appalled to see a group of chickens stuffed into a broken laundry basket with wire on top. The wings and heads of the poor animals were caught in the wire making it impossible for the chickens to move. Noting that no one at the auction was paying any attention to the number of animals inside the containers, our team watched in dismay as the auction staff ignored boxes crammed full of so many birds that the animals were sitting on top of each other.
Investigators were appalled to see a female auction employee roughly handling the animals as she checked them in. She kicked the boxes full of animals and threw them around, grabbing the birds by whatever body part she could reach, yanking on a wing or a foot to pull them out of the boxes.
Small, suffering animals seemed to be all around as appalled Animals’ Angels investigators continued to document the abusive conditions they witnessed, including:
- Unfortunate ducks in one small box forced to sit in unnatural positions causing them to constantly hit their heads on the low wire cover.
- Metal cages containing chickens and rabbits carelessly stacked one on top of another, with no barrier to prevent the feces from the animals above from covering the animals in the cages below them.
- Rabbits trapped in wire cages which gave them only bare, metal wire to sit on, and which became extremely painful for their sensitive paws.
- A group of chickens brought in industrial plastic crates suffering terribly from the excessive heat and packed in so tightly against each other that the desperate birds had their beaks wide open gasping for air. (Many of these chickens were losing feathers and had skin infections, which is a sign the chickens had previously been housed in a caged environment.)
Once the auction began, and potential buyers arrived and began filling in the available seats, the auction’s management finally turned on the nearby fans to provide much needed airflow for their customers. They were utterly indifferent to the fact that the animals had already been suffering in the heat for hours.
By the end of the afternoon, Animals’ Angels investigators had collected a substantial amount of heartbreaking evidence of the abuse routinely suffered by small animals at livestock auctions such as the Middleburg Auction. Based on the appalling conditions they’d witnessed, our team left with a resolution to provide the evidence from their visit to the local humane officer and urge him to attend future sales in order to monitor the handling, treatment, and housing conditions of the animals in the auction’s care.