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CONVICTED: Was justice served?
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Monday, Jan 31, 1966County: Harford
Case Images: 2 files available
Defendant/Suspect: Lester Paul Brown
The eight-page spread featured the work of legendary LIFE photographer Stan Wayman, who in late January 1966, had accompanied Frank McMahon, chief investigator of The HSUS, and a group of Maryland state troopers and humane officers onto the White Hall property of animal dealer Lester Brown. Wayman's photographs of the forlorn, neglected animals who populated the ramshackle landscape of sheds, boxes, and junked cars on Brown's property sparked a public outrage that had a catalytic effect, breaking through the political impasse that had seen one animal welfare bill after another fail in the U.S. Congress.
The raid on Lester Brown's place was not a spontaneous affair. Representatives of Christine Stevens' Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) had persuaded LIFE publisher Henry Luce to look at photographs of the animal trade they had taken. Luce decided to publish a story but wanted his own photographs, which is what led Wayman to get in touch with McMahon. Of the half dozen or so men on the raid that cold winter morning in January 1966, McMahon was the only return visitor. Four years earlier, he had been instrumental in Brown's arrest on a charge of cruelty to animals, based on evidence at the southeast Maryland site. Just a few weeks before the raid photographed by Wayman, McMahon and HSUS colleagues had also provided the information necessary for the search warrant used to enter the property that day.
Some of the police officers were shocked at what they saw on Brown's property-a dog frozen to death in a box, others too weak to crawl over to the iced up cattle entrails strewn about the junkyard for them to eat. Amid what Cpt. Thomas Smith of the Maryland State Police called "an unbelievable tangle of wrecked automobiles, trucks, body parts, and sheds," troopers found scores of broken-down dogs-diseased, numbed by the cold, chained to ramshackle boxes and barrels, jammed into chicken crates and wire pens, and wallowing in their own wastes. The sight of dogs starving and emaciated, unable to stand on their own feet, frantically licking at frozen water pans in futile attempts to drink, and scratching at frozen bovine entrails-their only food-repulsed even the hardiest of Smith's men, experienced criminal investigators accustomed to scenes of violence, misery, and desperation.
Lester Brown, who pled guilty to cruelty charges in Maryland on May 29, 1967, agreed to leave the animal supply business forever. He was one of the first, but he was not the last dealer to come to public attention for keeping animals in horrendous conditions. Since the passage of the act, other dealers too have come to disgrace, most recently C.C. Baird of Arkansas, usually as the result of good investigative work by animal organizations, followed up belatedly with administrative action by government agencies.
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