Gov. Walz’s Help Sought in Moulton Chinchilla Ranch Cruelty Case

For Immediate Release:
October 14, 2021

Contact:
Moira Colley 202-483-7382

Rochester, Minn. – Gov. Tim Walz received a letter from PETA this morning asking him to direct the Minnesota attorney general to pursue cruelty-to-animals charges against Dan Moulton, owner of the notorious Moulton Chinchilla Ranch (MCR), who just lost his U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) license and was declared “unfit” by a federal judge over an “astounding” record of federal animal welfare violations.

Months ago, a PETA investigation revealed that Moulton had denied chinchillas veterinary care for exposed bones, open wounds, and other painful conditions. It took a court order to force local officials to execute a search warrant, and they seized at least 10 animals from MCR. It came to light that the Fillmore County prosecutor and sheriff were both social media friends with Moulton, and the case was transferred to the Rice County attorney, who—after several months—cited the USDA’s pending civil case as a reason not to pursue charges, even though the USDA doesn’t have the authority to enforce state anti-cruelty laws.

Although the USDA license revocation means that Moulton will be barred from conducting business as a wholesale dealer to laboratories and the pet trade, without intervention from the state, he can still continue to operate—now without any federal oversight.

“PETA is asking Gov. Walz to see that justice is done and the law upheld in Fillmore County, where more than 700 chinchillas are still languishing in that hellhole,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “Since Moulton seems to have no fear of consequences from federal oversight or those he knows in county government, it’s up to the governor to save the animals and salvage the county’s reputation.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information about PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Walz follows.

October 14, 2021

The Honorable Tim Walz

Governor of Minnesota

Dear Gov. Walz:

I hope this letter finds you well. On behalf of nearly 70,000 PETA supporters in Minnesota and every person disgusted by animal abuse, we’re writing to ask for your intervention to ensure that egregious, well-documented, and, we believe, criminal cruelty to animals in Fillmore County is prosecuted. A facility there has had its federal license revoked by a shocked judge, but the county has failed to act. It’s clear from your past advocacy for animals that you take animal welfare seriously, so we are confident that you will recognize this situation as an emergency.

PETA’s investigation into Moulton Chinchilla Ranch (MCR) found that its owner, Dan Moulton, denied chinchillas veterinary care for swollen, pus-filled eyes; exposed bones; open wounds; and other painful conditions. Based on our evidence, law-enforcement officials executed a search warrant at MCR and opened a criminal investigation in January.

Moulton is social media friends with Corson as well as Fillmore County Sheriff John DeGeorge. Last April, after a reporter mentioned to Corson these online friendships and asked whether or not they had had an impact on his decision, Corson transferred the case to Rice County Attorney John Fossum. Six months later, Fossum’s office announced that it had declined to file criminal charges, citing false information, including that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s civil federal case against Moulton covered the same facts and carried stiffer penalties, when, in fact, the federal agency’s action involved the enforcement of laws wholly unrelated to the state’s cruelty statute, pertained to conduct that occurred years earlier, and did nothing to protect or render desperately needed aid to the more than 700 chinchillas still languishing at MCR in deplorable and unlawful conditions—something only the state has the authority and jurisdiction to do.

The USDA’s complaint against Moulton described his repeated failure to meet the minimal care standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act—including by leaving sick and injured chinchillas to suffer from untreated, chronic ailments and housing them in filthy conditions—going back as far as 2013. PETA’s investigation revealed similar suffering long after the USDA’s case was filed in 2018, and Moulton—clearly undeterred by any federal action—continued to be cited for the same violations as recently as this spring. Although a USDA judge described Moulton’s history of violations as “absolutely astounding,” declared him “unfit” to be a licensee, and stripped him of his license, Moulton is now subject to no oversight or inspections—he is free to keep these long-suffering chinchillas in whatever conditions he wants, evidently confident that those he knows in law enforcement have no interest or intention of enforcing Minnesota’s animal protection laws.

We respectfully request that you instruct Attorney General Keith Ellison to exercise the powers of a county attorney, as provided by Minn. Stat. Ann. § 8.01, and commence prosecution of this cruelty-to-animals case. You and Mr. Ellison are these vulnerable chinchillas’ only hope—everyone else has let them down, and they will continue to languish until Moulton is held criminally accountable for their neglect.

Thank you for your time and for your important work. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Daphna Nachminovitch

Senior Vice President

Cruelty Investigations Department

cc: Keith Ellison, Minnesota Attorney General

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