Authorities say more than 300 animals suffered untold misery on the Ault farm near Summitville.
When officials acted on a tip and went to the farm in April, they found 171 carcasses and 165 other animals, some on the brink of starvation, stumbling among the dead.
The horrific scene outraged animal control workers, sheriff's deputies and many citizens in Madison County. Daniel Ault, the farm's owner, reportedly told police that he had become overwhelmed by his various responsibilities and could no longer take care of the animals.
It's hard to imagine that any good could possibly come from the death and starvation of hundreds of farm animals. But last week, the Madison County commissioners, prompted by the Ault farm atrocities, took a step forward in the interest of animals.
They voted to approve a stronger, more detailed animal protection ordinance than the one that had been in force since 1978. The new ordinance offers clearer definitions of cruelty, abuse, neglect and abandonment and also outlaws animal fighting. The ordinance requires those who own or care for animals to provide adequate food, water and shelter.
The ordinance has some bite — though not as much as many animal protection proponents would suggest. Violation of the cruelty provision could entail a fine of as much as $500 per count.
The ordinance approved by commissioners covers only unincorporated areas of the county. But that's significant, since much of the county's livestock is kept outside of town and city limits.
It is important now that Madison County's municipalities fortify their animal protection ordinances to exact penalties that potential animal abusers won't take lightly.
Filing a complaint If you suspect mistreatment of animals in Madison County, contact the sheriff's department at 642-0221.