TWIN FALLS • A 25 year old man who admitted to animal cruelty on a Murtaugh dairy will spend the next year on probation.
Jesus Garza was sentenced Tuesday to the time he's already spent in jail and one year of supervised probation by Twin Falls County 5th District Magistrate Judge Calvin Campbell.
Twin Falls County Deputy Prosecutor Nancy Austin played a six-minute video, which she said depicted Garza jumping on a cow and twisting cows’ tails. The video was taken by a man working undercover for Los Angeles-based Mercy for Animals.
Jensen said his client was in some of the clips, taken at Dry Creek Dairy just southwest of Murtaugh, but not in several shown in court.
Austin said thatafter the video came out Garza was interviewed by the Idaho Department of Agriculture.
“He told them that he jumped on the back of that cow until his feet hurt,” she said.
Austin asked that Garza serve the maximum 180-day sentence for the crime with 80 days suspended. Garza already spent 102 days in jail before he bonded out.
Garza's defense attorney, Kent Jensen, said that while his client's actions could not be excused, there were problems with the dairy where Garza worked that made the situation possible.
Jensen said the case was difficult for him because he grew up on a dairy farm. Along with abuse, Jensen said the video shows cows with docked tails, sick cows, and the animals falling down or getting stuck in machines. None of that was Garza’s fault, he said.
“There didn’t seem to be anybody in charge who knew what to do,” Jensen said.
The pressure to milk 6,000 cows in a 12-hour shift caused a lot of stress to keep moving the cows through the barn, he said.
Campbell agreed the facility had problems but said Garza was still responsible for his own actions.
"What we as people who work with animals cannot forget is that we are the stewards and we are the responsible persons for the animals to make sure that they don't suffer unnecessary cruelty, that they don't suffer cruelty," Campbell said.
Campbell said he also grew up in a farming setting and ran a large sheep operation at one time. When people work with livestock they run the risk of forgetting that animals feel pain and have emotions like anger, frustration and fear, Campbell said.
“We have a tendency to forget these things,” he said. “That they’re more than a tool to make a living or a tool for a job.”
The judge sentenced Garza to the jail time he’s already served along with one year of probation. He said that was sufficient punishment for Garza, but the dairy also had some culpability for the way the animals were treated.
“I think the facility itself has problems,” he said. “The facility itself has responsibility for what was created and the situation that was created there.”
Garza said he was sorry and that he'd learned his lesson.
Austin asked that as part of his probation, Garza not be allowed to work with animals.
Jensen said Garza already had another job at a dairy that had specially trained employees to ensure the animals were well taken care of and better supervision.
Campbell ordered that Garza not work with livestock until further order from the court. He said that if a letter or an in-person meeting with Garza's new employer convinced him there was proper supervision and animal welfare policies, he might allow Garza to work with animals again.
Campbell also fined Garza $500, with $250 suspended.
If he violates his probation, Garza could have to pay the other $250 and spend up to 78 more days in jail.