Saturday, December 10, 2016

Massachusetts: Ralph McNiff, 75, has been battling with town officials for more than 8 years. Finally something is being done about the animals he has purposely neglected and let suffer and die


A decomposing rat.

Calves with diarrhea.

This is only some of what town and state officials found while inspecting the McNiff Farm on Westford Road.

The town has declared that the property at 66 Westford Road a "nuisance, source of filth and cause of sickness within the town," and that the buildings and grounds contain dangerous conditions that pose a serious threat to public health and safety -- including more than 100 sick and neglected animals, accumulations of filth, rubbish, debris and animal waste throughout the property, unstable structures and infestation of rats.

Because of these conditions, the Board of Selectmen and Board of Health voted for the house to be vacated and secured within 24 hours, and for the immediate removal of all animals, animal feed and animal waste from the property.

"It's not a pretty situation," Selectman Jannice Livingston said about the property on Friday.

The Board of Selectmen and Board of Health held a joint public meeting on Thursday about the farm, owned by Ralph McNiff, 75, as a result of an inspection of the property conducted by the town on Nov. 28.

This inspection was requested by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which began investigating and inspecting the property on Nov. 23. As a result, the MSPCA removed about 80 pigs, according to District Sanitarian Bridgette Braley.

"It's, in my opinion, not habitable at this point of time," Braley said at the joint meeting on Thursday.

She told the joint boards that there are numerous violations of state sanitary code at the property.

These include rats in the main pig barn, a large amount of trash/debris/tires/metal, dead pigs, and calves with inadequate shelter and no access to water.

In addition, she found: most of the home's windows are not weathertight, storm doors are in disrepair, floors in the main living quarters are stripped down to the subfloors and are in poor condition, heat is not adequate, there are electrical problems within the home, the ceiling is in disrepair and more.

Furthermore, the town's animal inspector, Carlene Purdy, issued a report to the joint boards. In it, she wrote that the swine barn is extremely unsanitary with 6-inch deep manure, a dead and decomposing rat, and rat burrows throughout the barn.

Purdy added that the pigs appeared to be in poor condition, and some were obviously ill. Also, she witnessed cattle eating through plastic to get to hay, and there was no hay for free feeding.

"On a personal note: I, as Animal Inspector for the Town of Ayer, am deeply saddened to see the deterioration and decline of this farm in one year's time," Purdy wrote in the report.

Back in 2014, residents argued that the property should be deemed a nuisance, citing vehicles that have not moved in years and several buildings that seemed unsafe. Selectmen told McNiff that he would have until May to clean up his yard.

But this time, town officials were much more harsh as conditions have worsened at McNiff's property. At the meeting on Thursday, McNiff blamed his son for the poor conditions.

"I don't think that's being fair," McNiff said about the removal of his animals. "My animals were well taken care of in the barn."

Moving forward, no animals may be brought onto the property until the Board of Selectmen and Board of Health have certified that all nuisance and dangerous conditions have been abated, and until McNiff has developed a plan for keeping animals safe and sanitary.

Also, the joint boards voted for McNiff to immediately hire an exterminator to eradicate all rats and vermin from the property.

In addition, all junk and debris must be removed from the property within 14 days.

Within 30 days, McNiff must submit a plan to remediate all nuisance and dangerous conditions. Then within 90 days, all nuisance and dangerous conditions must be fixed.

McNiff has the right to appeal this order from the joint boards.

(Lowell Sun - Dec 10, 2016)


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