- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - An animal rights group said that it is filing complaints in courts in Forrest and Pontotoc counties against two livestock auctions sites where it alleges cows, sheep and other animals are being mistreated.

A complaint was filed early Monday in Forrest County court against Southeast Mississippi Livestock in Hattiesburg, local officials confirmed.

Matt Rice, director of investigations for Los Angeles-based Mercy For Animals, said the complaint against Pontotoc Stockyard in Pontotoc will be filed later in the day.

The group has hidden-camera video footage of animal abuse and neglect, Rice said. Details of the investigation will be announced at a news conference Tuesday in Jackson, he said.

Joe Johnson, manager of the Hattiesburg stockyards, told The Associated Press he was aware of the allegations.

“We do not condone any kind of activity that shows cruelty or mistreatment of our livestock nor do we tolerate it. Our people have been trained and we will do more training. We’ve got new supervision in place that will monitor and watch what is going on,” Johnson said.

Dr. Ron Herndon, a chiropractor who owns the Pontotoc Stockyard, said he talked to officials from Mercy For Animals before the complaint was to be filed.

“I told them we’d check on it and do whatever we need to do to fix it. We try to do what we do within guidelines. If there is anything more to be done we will do it,” Herndon said.

Rice told the AP that one of the group’s investigators got hired as an employee at both livestock arenas.

“He simply went to work, wired with a hidden camera and documented the activities there,” Rice said.

Rice said video, which will be released Tuesday, shows the animals “being kicked, shocked, beaten and dragged by their ears and tails. It also shows management acknowledging that animals are deprived of food and water. “

Rice said the group is seeking the filing of a total of 28 animal abuse counts against five workers at Pontotoc Stockyard and 21 counts against five workers at the Hattiesburg business.

Rice said the group is calling on law enforcement agencies to “hold these animal abusers accountable for their crimes against livestock.”

“We’re also asking the Livestock Marketing Association - of which both of these auctions are members - to crackdown on animal abuse at their member facilities,” he said.

Rice said Mercy for Animals calls for more oversight and training for workers at livestock barns, camera monitoring with live streaming and zero tolerance for abuse.

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