Case Snapshot
Case ID: 17721
Classification: Beating, Kicking/Stomping, Mutilation/Torture
More cases in Grand Isle County, VT
More cases in VT
Login to Watch this Case

New features are coming soon. Login with Facebook to get an early start and help us test them out!



For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.



Thursday, Sep 17, 2009

County: Grand Isle

Charges: Misdemeanor, Felony CTA
Disposition: Convicted

Defendants/Suspects:
» Christopher Gaudette
» Frank Perretta

Case Updates: 5 update(s) available

Two former employees of a now-closed Vermont slaughterhouse have been charged with animal cruelty for the excessive shocking of calves with an electric prod, prosecutors said Friday.

The state Attorney General's office issued arrest warrants for Christopher Gaudette, 37, and Frank Perretta, 51, both of Grand Isle.

The charges stem from revelations last November at the Bushway Packing Inc. slaughterhouse in Grand Isle, where hidden-camera video taken by the Humane Society of the United States showed days-old calves being dragged, kicked and shocked as they were loaded off a truck and taken to slaughter.

WARNING: Very graphic images

Both Gaudette and Perretta, one of Bushway's corporate directors, remained at large Friday afternoon, and neither could be reached for comment. A telephone listed as belonging to a Chris Gaudette in Grand Isle was no longer in service and a phone listing for Perretta could not be found.

U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations permit the use of prods, but only as "little as possible in order to minimize excitement and injury."

Gaudette and Perretta engaged in more than that, according to an affidavit filed by attorney general's investigator Darrin Barber.

According to the affidavit:

The Humane Society, which had received a hotline complaint about inhumane handling of the animals at Bushway, hired independent contractor Jason Smith, who had done undercover work for similar organizations before.

Smith conducted a six-week undercover operation at Bushway Packing after being hired to be a worker. The one-hour video he produced contained 33 scenes of the "handling and inspection" of the calves, 16 of which were deemed to show inhumane treatment of animals, according to USDA veterinarian Dr. Ata Chaudhry, who reviewed it.

In a video shot by Smith on Sept. 15, 2009, Gaudette is seen shocking a downed calf 11 times until it gets up. He then shocks it five more times before kicking it, pouring water on its head -- to enhance the electrical current -- and shocking it seven more times, which Chaudhry called excessive.

Perretta, secretary of the company and one of its corporate directors, was shown the videotape by USDA inspectors and said he would never condone the behavior Gaudette had engaged in, telling them he would banish Gaudette from the barns. But he, too, was cited for excessive shocking of a calf, and for kneeing another animal in the backside. He engaged in "egregious inhumane handling," according to Chaudhry.

The charges were filed in Grand Isle County after an investigation by the USDA, according to Vermont prosecutor Cindy Maguire. She said such charges had never been filed in Vermont in a slaughterhouse case before.

"The fact that we've filed charges speaks to the import of the case," she said.

The slaughterhouse, which has since been closed, specialized in "bob veal calves," or those less than a month old, up to 800 a week of which were slaughtered and sent to market as whole carcasses.

The abuse was called "inexcusable" by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last year. It led to the closing of Bushway Packing and calls for closer regulation of animal handling.

Ultimately, the state Legislature passed a bill creating a Livestock Care Standards Advisory Council. The bill also allows the state to deny a commercial slaughter license to people convicted of animal cruelty.

Gaudette is charged with felony aggravated cruelty to animals and two counts of cruelty, a misdemeanor; Perretta is charged with one count of cruelty. The misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and $2,000 in fines. If convicted of the felony, Gaudette could face three years and $5,000 fines on each count.


Case Updates

The Humane Society of the United States honored Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell and Criminal Division Chief Cindy Maguire at the Vermont Statehouse this morning with the Humane Law Enforcement Award for 2010 in recognition of the Attorney General's work in the prosecution of former staff members of Bushway Packing Inc., a former slaughterhouse in Grand Isle, Vermont.

Commenting on the award, Attorney General Sorrell stated: "We are honored to receive this national recognition. So many Vermonters were outraged to learn how calves were being abused at the Bushway plant. I much appreciate the Humane Society's work in bringing these actions to light and I hope that other slaughter operations take note: Vermont's laws requiring humane treatment of animals will be strongly enforced."

Following a complaint by the Humane Society of the United States, which had employed an undercover operative to film conditions at the plant, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, and Food Safety Inspection Service, conducted an investigation.

Based on the investigation, the Vermont Attorney General's Office charged former owner Frank Peretta and former employee Christopher Gaudette with animal cruelty.

Mr. Peretta received a suspended sentence of zero to one year, a fine of $2,000, was required to complete 120 hours of community service, and was banned from any further work with animals including any future right to participate in any animal husbandry or slaughterhouse activity.

Former employee Christopher Gaudette plead guilty to one charge of aggravated cruelty to animals and received a sentence of one to three years all suspended except for a thirty day sentence on pre-approved furlough to a State work crew. In addition, the court entered an order that Mr. Gaudette forfeit all future rights to participate in any animal husbandry or slaughterhouse activity involving live animals.
Source: atg.state.vt.us - Apr 11, 2011
Update posted on Apr 17, 2011 - 8:57AM 
Attorney General William H Sorrell announced today that Christopher Gaudette, age 37, has plead guilty to one charge of aggravated cruelty to animals in connection with his employment at Bushway Packing, Inc.

Gaudette entered the plea today in Grand Isle County pursuant to a plea agreement with the State. Under the terms of the agreement, Gaudette will receive a sentence of one to three years all suspended except for a thirty day sentence on pre-approved furlough to the State work crews. In addition, the court entered an order that Mr. Gaudette forfeit all future rights to participate in any animal husbandry or slaughterhouse activity involving live animals.

According to papers filed in court, the charge stemmed from allegations that Gaudette excessively shocked a downed calf, lifted and threw the calf, and then poured water onto the head of the calf and shocked it in the wet area. Following a complaint by the Humane Society of the United States, which had employed an undercover operative to film conditions at the plant, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, and Food Safety Inspection Service, conducted an investigation, which resulted in the filing of the criminal charge.

The felony charge carries a possible sentence of not more than three years imprisonment and not more than $5,000 in fines.

Commenting on the conviction and the sentence, Attorney General Sorrell advised: "Mr. Gaudette is now a convicted felon. Hopefully, this sends a message that we will strongly enforce Vermont laws requiring humane treatment of animals."

The Bushway Packing plant is no longer in operation.
Source: vermontbiz.com - Nov 18, 2010
Update posted on Apr 17, 2011 - 8:54AM 
Frank Perretta, the former co-owner of a Grand Isle slaughterhouse shut down in 2009 following allegations of abuse of veal calves, pleaded no contest Wednesday to a misdemeanor animal-cruelty charge and received a one-year suspended sentence.

Under terms of a plea deal worked out with the state Attorney General's Office, Perretta also agreed to pay a $2,000 fine, perform 120 hours of community service and not participate in any animal husbandry or slaughterhouse activity in the future.

Perretta's company, Bushway Packing, was closed down in late 2009 shortly after the Humane Society of the United States released video footage shot by an agent of the group working undercover at the plant that showed employees kicking calves and repeatedly stunning them with electric prods.

Included in the video were three instances where Perretta was seen using an electric prod to shock calves as they struggled to stand up after being delivered to the slaughterhouse, Humane Society officials said.

"A viewing of the video indicates that Perretta shocked the calf approximately six times before picking it up and shocking it again," read a section of an affidavit written by Darin Barber, a detective for the Attorney General's Office. "After the calf is pushed out the door of the truck and falls again, Perretta shocks it another three times."

The video prompted the federal Agriculture Department to investigate the slaughterhouse and led to criminal charges being filed against Perretta and a second employee, Christopher Gaudette of Grand Isle.

Gaudette, 37, is facing two misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and one felony charge of aggravated cruelty to an animal. He has pleaded not guilty; the case is pending in Vermont Superior Court in North Hero.

Prior to its closure, Bushway Packing was the state's largest processor of male calves, handling close to 2,000 animals a week picked up from farms in the northern half of Vermont and upstate New York, according to an attorney for the company.

It has since reopened under different ownership and with a different name.
Source: burlingtonfreepress.com - Oct 27, 2010
Update posted on Apr 17, 2011 - 8:42AM 
The co-owner of a now-closed Vermont slaughterhouse wanted on animal cruelty charges has been arrested in New York.

The attorney general's office says 51-year-old Frank Perretta was arraigned Friday in St. Lawrence County as a fugitive from justice.

Bushway Packing Inc. was shut down Oct. 30 amid allegations stemming from a Humane Society of the United States undercover video showing calves being kicked and poked with electric prods.

A former worker at the slaughterhouse, 37-year-old Christopher Gaudette, of Grand Isle, has pleaded not guilty to animal cruelty charges.

Perretta, who challenged the warrant seeking his return to Vermont, faces similar charges.
Source: businessweek.com - Aug 6, 2010
Update posted on Apr 17, 2011 - 8:39AM 
A Grand Isle man was arraigned Thursday on three charges of animal cruelty arising from an investigation into abuse of calves at a Grand Isle slaughterhouse caught on camera by a Humane Society representative working undercover at the plant last year.

Christopher Gaudette, 37, entered pleas of not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and one felony charge of aggravated cruelty to animals before Judge Ben Joseph during an afternoon hearing at Vermont District Court in North Hero. He was released on conditions.

Gaudette is one of two men facing charges following an investigation by the Attorney General's Office into the Bushway case. Police have not located the second man, Bushway co-owner Frank Perretta, 51, of Grand Isle, and a warrant for his arrest has been issued.

Bushway Packing Inc., was shut down Oct. 30 by federal health officials after the Humane Society of the United States released video footage showing calves being kicked and excessively poked with electric prods. In some cases, water was sprinkled on the calves to intensify the prods' effect.

In one portion of the video, Gaudette is shown shocking a calf numerous times as it lay on the floor of the slaughter house, according to an affidavit by Darin Barber, a detective for the Attorney General's Office.

"Gaudette is shown shocking a downed calf eleven times until the calf gets up," the affidavit said. "Gaudette then shocks another calf eight or more times, then picks up and drops a calf and then shocks it five more times. He then kicks it."

Gaudette, when questioned by Barber, said he used the prod on calves only once or twice to try to get them to stand up, the affidavit said. He also claimed the undercover videographer, Jason Smith, suggested he throw water on a calf "to wake it up" before applying the prod to the animal.

Barber wrote in the affidavit that there was no evidence on the video that Smith made such a suggestion to Gaudette.

Gaudette faces up to five years in prison and $9,000 in fines if convicted of all the charges.

Perretta told Barber he would not condone what Gaudette did, the affidavit said. Perretta has been charged with one count of animal cruelty on allegations of repeatedly shocking downed calves with an electric prod and kneeing another animal in its backside.

Following release of the videotape, federal Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the abuse "inexcusable." Outcry resulting from the release of the footage also spurred the Legislature to pass a bill to strengthen state rules for regulating slaughterhouses.
Source: burlingtonfreepress.com - Jun 18, 2010
Update posted on Apr 17, 2011 - 8:36AM 

References

« VT State Animal Cruelty Map
« More cases in Grand Isle County, VT

Note: Classifications and other fields should not be used to determine what specific charges the suspect is facing or was convicted of - they are for research and statistical purposes only. The case report and subsequent updates outline the specific charges. Charges referenced in the original case report may be modified throughout the course of the investigation or trial, so case updates, when available, should always be considered the most accurate reflection of charges.

For more information regarding classifications and usage of this database, please visit the database notes and disclaimer.