ANDOVER — A petting farm owner who was charged with animal cruelty earlier this year said his recent online comments about slaughtering his animals were not serious but he is selling off his animals and closing up for good.

Dennis Sugar was indicted in February on several charges stemming from the August 2019 discovery of more than 30 dead pigs and other animals sick or injured at his previous property in Lafayette.

Sugar said Tuesday he was responsible for online comments about "beating the animals" and sending them to be slaughtered, explaining that they were "made truly out of anger and sarcasm" after he had been attacked numerous times on his personal Facebook page.

"I brought myself down to their level. There is no excuse for my responses. They were made out of anger and I was wrong for doing it. Please know that none of these animals are going to slaughter. I care more about them than people," Sugar said Tuesday in a Facebook post on his farm's page.

"I am not being forced to close but unfortunately the enjoyment is no longer the same. So that is why I am stepping away," Sugar said in a Facebook post Tuesday.

On its own Facebook page, Found in Thyme Sanctuary said Monday that it had offered to help the Sugar Sweet Petting Zoo "but we’ve been threatened and harassed repeatedly by Mr. Sugar. We are in litigation. It is apparent that Mr. Sugar will not give the animals up to rescues or sanctuaries."

According to Sugar, Found in Thyme said in March it would purchase all the animals but the sanctuary could not come up with the undisclosed amount of money.

As reported by NJ.com, investigators responded to Sugar's farm after a complaint from sanctuary volunteers but no charges were filed.

A GoFundMe campaign started March 4 by Stephanie McPherson on behalf of Found in Thyme set a goal of raising $25,000 in order to take over ownership at Sugar Sweet Farm, with an immediate goal of $5,000 by March 6. The campaign raised over $3,400 as of July 7.

Found in Thyme did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.


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"As for sanctuaries I was soured by my experience with Found In Thyme and I shouldn’t have grouped all sanctuaries together because of my experience with them," Sugar wrote on the farm's Facebook page. "There are a lot of good sanctuaries out there research them by going out and seeing them and not by what you read on social media then support them."

Sugar said  he had about 40 animals left — including calves, pigs and goats.

On June 23, Sugar said in response to a question on the farm's Facebook page that he hoped to be open "for years."

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