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Authorities seize chickens, ducks, pigeons, peacock from illegal slaughterhouse in Jefferson Hills

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 6:54 p.m.

Officers from Animal Friends helped rescue more than 50 chickens and a peacock from a Jefferson Hills barnyard as part of an ongoing federal investigation with the Department of Agriculture.

The rescue was part of an investigation into a “suspected illegal slaughter organization,” said Jolene Miklas, a spokeswoman for Animal Friends, a nonprofit animal shelter in Ohio Township.

“(Officers) have been doing stakeouts and trying to gather information,” Miklas said. “They didn't realize until Monday how many animals were affected.”

The office of David J. Hickton, the U.S. attorney for Western Pennsylvania, confirmed in a statement that a federal investigation is under way about a property on Scotia Hollow Road. Hickton's office declined to identify the target of the investigation.

Agents from the USDA's Office of Inspector General and the agency's Food Safety and Inspection Service executed a search warrant at the Jefferson Hills property on Tuesday, along with the Jefferson Hills Police Department and officers from Animal Friends, according to Hickton's statement.

Food Safety and Inspection Service spokesman Richard McIntire said the USDA could not provide additional information.

Animal Friends anticipated rescuing about a dozen chickens, Miklas said. But officers came out with 52 chickens, seven pigeons, two ducks and a teal peacock.

The chickens are receiving medical care at the Animal Friends shelter. They will be transferred to farm sanctuaries, where they will be able to recover.

Some of the chickens were infested with lice and had bald patches.

One was found dead, and two had to be euthanized at the shelter.

The peacock's blue and green feathers were severely damaged, and many were missing. It's unclear why the peacock was being kept at the barnyard, Miklas said.

Animal Friends posted photos of the rescued animals on its Facebook page and sought donations to help defray the costs of their care.

On Wednesday, the rescued animals occupied a large room at Animal Friends that was intended for administering dog vaccinations. Workers were forced to administer rabies shots in the lobby of the shelter instead.

As dozens of dog owners and their pets crowded the shelter throughout the day seeking rabies inoculations, the rescued roosters crowed loudly from their cages.

Christina Gallagher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5637 or cgallagher@tribweb.com.

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