Larson Dairy employee accused of animal abuse

OKEECHOBEE — Sheriff Noel Stephen, of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office, (OCSO) gave a press conference Thursday afternoon at 3:15 p.m. in regards to a video that was posted on social media sites which depicted apparent animal abuse committed by supposedly three individuals at Larson Dairy Inc., in Okeechobee.

According to Sheriff Stephen a FedEx package was delivered to OCSO that contained photographs and a written letter from the complainant who reported the alleged abuse. “The case has been assigned to an investigator and we will be conducting an investigation regarding these allegations” said the sheriff.

The sheriff said at the press conference that the “pictures are of what appears to be an individual kicking at a cow, having something in his hand, and maybe hitting a cow but these are all still photos. I understand there is a video out there, that I have not seen, as I stand here before you,” Sheriff Stephen addressed the reporters at the press conference.

The sheriff continued his remarks “I know three generations of Larsons that have run this operation, … any one of those three gentlemen would not accept this kind of conduct from any employee or anyone on their cattle. I have spoken to two of the Larsons – Woody and Jacob – the individual in question that was kicking the cow has been fired and two others in the video have been suspended by Larson Dairy, which is conducting an internal investigation.” Sheriff Stephen also mentioned that the Larsons welcomed an investigation and “would not condone this activity, had they known about it, they would have fired them on the spot.”

Sheriff Stephen said he’s, “Never received any innuendos, complaints or allegations in regards to the Larsons themselves.”

When asked if the Larson Dairy would be closed down during the investigation, Sheriff Stephen responded, “These cattle have to be milked twice a day or they will get sick, so the operations will continue.

“I really wish the individuals who recorded the video would have given the video to OCSO at the time, because the abuse probably continued, unnecessarily, up until today,” the sheriff expressed during the interview.

“This unfortunately was publicized before it was ever reported. My crystal ball is cloudy and my magic wand is broke, I’ve got to have help from citizens when they identify these problems to help law enforcement. We in law enforcement are here to help but we have got to work together,” the sheriff said.

Sheriff Stephen made serious statements in saying, “This is definitely not something that is going to be covered up and something that we’ll be addressing. There will be a criminal investigation and I believe that there will be criminal charges upon completion of that investigation.”

Sheriff Stephen concluded his press conference, “Updates will be made around the middle of next week.”

The Florida Dairy Farmers is Florida’s milk promotion group that represents more than 130 dairy farm families who produce 272 million gallons of fresh Florida milk each year. They released the following information on their Florida Milk Facebook page.

Florida Dairy Farmers released a statement that they are “deeply saddened by the actions that took place in an undercover video that was released today, Nov. 9, featuring a Florida dairy farm.

“This incident in no way reflects the animal care practices of the thousands of hard working dairy farm families in Florida and across the U.S.

“After being made aware of the situation, the owners of Larson Dairy Inc. immediately terminated the employee involved and they are now conducting an in-depth investigation on the farm.

“All dairy farmers have the utmost respect for their animals and are committed to their compassionate care. This is not an adequate representation of how dairy farmers care for their cows.”

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