Citizens frustrated with lack of answers in Westport farm abuse case

WESTPORT, Mass. (WPRI) — Members of the Westport Board of Health held a meeting Monday to address the hundreds of animals found living in squalor on a 70-acre property off American Legion Highway last month.

Last week, we reported that multiple violations were found on nearly all of the 20 lots on the farm.

During the meeting Monday, community members were disappointed in the lack of answers from board chairman John Coletti on how the largest case of farm animal abuse in the northeast occurred in their small town of Westport.

Coletti said the board doesn’t always have time to thoroughly inspect properties.westport board of health meeting protests

“Well, we have other jobs. We work outside of the Board of Health and we can’t do 100 farms. It’s impossible,” he said.

Eyewitness News Reporter Kelly Sullivan asked Coletti about the process – if the board gets a complaint, do they always feel compelled to follow up?

Coletti said yes. “Every time.”

Board member Karl Santos responded to a complaint at the farm back in December.

“I didn’t see anything to say I had to go back,” he told Sullivan.

Kelly: “But you never went on the lot so how would you see anything if you didn’t go on the lot?”

Karl: “Well, some of the lots you can see the animals from the road.”

Kelly: “From the roadway but that’s really far away – how are you able to make an assessment?”

Karl: “I mean the land way, just down there.”

Community members packed the meeting – calling for action and for Coletti and Santos to resign.

“If they can’t regulate tenant farms and the animals can’t live decently they shouldn’t have tenant farms,” said Lori Bradley.

“We deserve to have a good strong government with good regulations, clear authority,” added Susan Rollins. “We just need accountability. There appears to be no accountability and that’s just unnecessary.”

westport animal abuse CollageIN-DEPTH: Westport Farm Abuse

There is currently a petition going around on requesting the squalid farm be shut down. It has more than 3,000 signatures.

Coletti said he would be willing to resign if someone was willing to step in and take his position – but right now, he doesn’t want to leave the town without a Board of Health chair.

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