What really happened at Horizon High School

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1997:

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.––The so-called Horizon
High School chicken incident of April 11, in Scottsdale,
Arizona, was perhaps the most publicized case of alleged
teenaged animal abuse this year, and was subject of a demonstration
outside the school as late as August 14––but an ANIMAL
PEOPLE investigation supports the findings of the
Phoenix Police Department and Paradise Valley Unified School
District that the incident simply did not happen as it was reported
by two local TV stations, the Animal Benefit Club, and
United Poultry Concerns.
The widely distributed allegation was that according
to eyewitnesses, 50 hens were released on the campus, then
“beaten, kicked like footballs, hurled through the air, stuffed
into lockers, and run over by cars.”

However, neither of the two students who were interviewed
on TV and quoted in local newspapers after taking several
chickens to the Animal Benefit Club shelter actually
claimed to have seen any such thing. Of 15 witnesses including
all of those quoted by media, individually and privately interviewed
by Phoenix police officers Zeke Green and Christopher
Meyer, none claimed to have seen any such incidents, and one
young man who allegedly told Animal Benefit Club investigator
Cindy Bristow that he was a witness recanted his purported
testimony, saying he had actually been in class at the time, and
had only heard stories about what happened from someone else.
All of the testimony, both to police and to media,
when taken whole and in context, supported the account of
Horizon High principal John A. Stollar Jr., who said in a prepared
statement that, “Four Horizon High students did purchase
40 laying hens from an egg producer. The owner bound
the hens by their legs, four to a bunch, and sold them to the
students for $2.00 apiece The student intent was to bring the
hens to the Horizon campus and let them loose to cause a commotion,
but not to harm them. Several caring Horizon students
found the hens and, in an effort to make sure than no harm was
done to them, scooped up 10 of approximately 20 brought on
campus and put them in vehicles and took them to a shelter.”
These were the students who were interviewed on camera, and
the chickens whom the TV accounts showed, alive and well.
Abuse was down on the farm
Veterinarian Ross Babcock affirmed that these chickens
“were blemish-free and had no injuries,” even though socalled
spent hens have notoriously brittle bones, other than
rough feathers attributable to their lives at the egg ranch.
“As soon as the students found that the goal of disruption
was not achieved,” Stollar continued, “the remaining
hens were gathered up,” in front of police who were already at
the school to prevent a fight that was rumored to be about to
happen but never did, “and fully 38 of the 40 were accounted
for and successfully brought to appropriate caregivers.”
One chicken––shown on TV––was run over by a car
in the student parking lot, and one died in transit.
Stollar suspended 27 students because of the chicken
incident and the fight that didn’t happen, for missing class.
Ironically, the police reports did document harsh
treatment of the chickens in routine egg ranch practice.
Arizona Humane Society executive director Kenneth
White said AHS had not been asked to investigate the case, but
expressed confidence in the police probe, praising the Phoenix
police for a history of taking animal abuse seriously.
Parallel claims pertaining to alleged mass chickenkicking
at a March 1996 party hosted by the Alpha Tau Omega
fraternity at Florida State University in Tallahassee surfaced
during mid-June. Overhearing a student discussing the purported
abuse, FSU art professor Paul Rutkovsky questioned him,
then took the matter to the Student Senate, accompanied by
Cathy Keen, president of the FSU chapter of Students for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals. Keen said she received threatening
telephone calls afterward. The campus paper, the Florida
F l a m b e a u, reported on the Student Senate discussion, but
most of the press run was apparently stolen from campus racks.
FSU Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities
director Doug Pearson said the university would bring charges
if evidence warranted. However, Major Jack Handley of the
FSU police department said his staff hadn’t identified any primary
witnesses. Alpha Tau Omega officials said animal abuse
is an offense that could bring expulsion from the fraternity.

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