4 teens arrested in connection with clubbing death of 920 chickens

Four young men, ages 15 to 18, were arrested this week for allegedly breaking into a Foster Farms chicken ranch and killing more than 900 birds with a golf club.

All four were booked on charges of burglary and felony cruelty to animals.

Fresno Sheriff's Department spokesman Christian Curtice declined to say what police believe prompted the chicken slaughter.

Investigators said the suspects pulled back a fence and broke into a barn on Sept. 20, then beat 920 chickens to death with a golf club and possible another instrument.

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Detectives from a special agriculture task force tracked the suspects down. The task force was set up to investigate farming-related crimes in Fresno, the nation's leading agra-business county, with $5 billion in annual revenues.

Not all the chickens at the facility were killed, said Foster Farms spokesman Ira Brill, noting the barns typically have several thousand chickens inside. He said Thursday that as a chicken producer certified by the American Humane Association, the company takes the incident seriously.

"This disturbs us all," Brill said. "It appears to be a very senseless act of animal cruelty."

The suspects were not employees or related to employees. The company is working with law enforcement to distribute a $5,000 reward.
The Animal Defense League also offered a $5,000 reward, and officials there said they would be in touch with the Fresno Sheriff's Department.