A well-known Swanville farmer has been accused of shooting several pigs one day before a scheduled inspection by state animal welfare officials.

According to a search warrant filed by District Humane Agent Rae-Ann Demos, the agency was alerted to the alleged “execution” at Ireland Hill Farms by neighbors on March 27.

Animal welfare agents visited the farm on Nickerson Road a day later. Five dead pigs and one live pig were recovered from the property, which is owned by Jerry Ireland, according to the search warrant.

The state Animal Welfare Program has been looking into allegations of neglect, loose animals and lack of shelter at Ireland Hill Farms since November at the request of Animal Control Officer Heidi Blood, Demos said in the search warrant.

For several years, Ireland has been the face of United Farmer Veterans of Maine, which he founded. According to previously published reports, he began farming in Maine in 2012. At that time, Ireland Hill Farms raised beef, milk cows, laying hens, hog breeding stock, and pigs to sell for pork, in addition to maple syrup, vegetables and more than 35 varieties of apples.

Ireland is a candidate for House District 98 to represent Frankfort, Searsport, Swanville and Winterport. When contacted Thursday, he declined to comment.

According to the search warrant, no one was home during agents’ repeated visits to the farm, Demos said. It appeared the farm animals did not have access to food, water or shelter. Agents also observed a dog tied up outside, shivering, without visible access to food or water.

In describing a Nov. 16, 2017, visit to the farm, Demos said in the search warrant that “there were two cows and several pigs. I could not see if there was any food or water for the pigs. The cows however were roaming in what appeared to be the remains of a garden. I could not see hay available nor could I see an obvious water supply. There was a brown dog tied to a shed and was shivering while sitting there. I did not see any sign of food or water for the dog. We walked to the cabin and knocked at the door several times, no one answered.”

Blood advised Demos that food and water was being supplied to the animals by Nov. 28, and that one building had been repaired. She said she issued another compliance notice to Ireland that said: “All buildings and pens must be cleaned out and proper bedding applied, buildings must have three complete side(s) and a waterproof roof, cows must have hay and water in front of them at all times, overcrowding issues for the pigs must be rectified, and ensure all animals are properly contained to your property.”

During check-ins with Ireland Dec. 5 and Dec. 28, Blood reported the pigs had been moved to an adequate shelter and the dog had been seen by a veterinarian and declared in good health.

On Jan. 12, a neighbor contacted Blood when the path to the pigs had not been plowed after a snowstorm on Jan. 4 and 5. The caller indicated Ireland had not been seen at the property for two days. However, the neighbor called again later that day to report that Ireland had plowed the path and fed the animals.

A visit by agents about a month later found no one present at the property, and no one responded to a request for a return phone call, Demos said. Blood returned to the farm March 17 after reports there had been no human activity for several weeks, and reported there was no food or water for the animals that she could see. After several other failed attempts to contact Ireland, Animal Welfare Program Director Liam Hughes discussed the next steps with the state Department of Agriculture. Demos said an appointment was scheduled for last Wednesday.

“I explained to Mr. (Caldwell) Jackson (of the Department of Agriculture) that was a very long time from (March 17) and that I was afraid there may already be dead animals on the property,” Demos said.

Surveillance of the property showed no activity the weekend of March 23-25. Blood visited the farm March 26, where she spoke with Ireland and asked about his weekend feeding schedule.

“Mr. Ireland refused to answer her question,” Demos said. Ireland also refused to let Blood see the animals, according to the search warrant.

The following day, Blood contacted Demos to report “Mr. Ireland was shooting the pigs and she could see a backhoe digging a large hole. She stated she could see one pig hanging from the bucket of the backhoe. She took a few pictures from the road.”

Demos said a distraught neighbor called as well and indicated “this was the second time he has conducted a mass execution of the animals on his property.”

“It is not a crime to humanely euthanize one’s own animals; however, due to the uncooperative behavior Mr. Ireland has exhibited over the last few months by denying access to check on the animals, not returning phone call requests and flat-out kicking officers off his property … I feel Mr. Ireland’s decision to execute all his animals just one day prior to my scheduled inspection leads me to believe he is covering up proof these animals may very well have been emaciated due to lack of consistent feeding and care,” Demos said.

“I am requesting this search warrant to remove any live, dead or unborn animals from the property that are being or have been deprived of necessary sustenance, proper shelter and humanely clean conditions.”

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