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CBS46 Investigates: Slaughterhouse stirring up controversy in DeKalb County

The county sent him a cease and desist order, records show he has slaughtered 3,000 animals since then.
Updated: Nov. 17, 2021 at 6:33 PM EST
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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (CBS46) — Imagine living in a seemingly quiet residential neighborhood and right next door are pigs, cows, chickens, and other livestock. But it’s not a farm we are describing. It’s a slaughterhouse. Some neighbors in DeKalb county are trying to shut it down.

There’s nosy neighbors. There’s noisy neighbors. There aren’t many neighbors like Bradford Rudolph.

Rudolph lives on Rice Road in Lithonia and he’s turned his property into a slaughterhouse.

Bradford’s Livestock is licensed through the Georgia Department of Agriculture. It’s not licensed through DeKalb County’s Department of Planning, which has been trying to shut the business down since 2019, when they sent Rudolph a cease and desist notice for operating a business that is not allowed in a residential zone.

The DeKalb County slaughterhouse was issued a cease and desist by the county.
The DeKalb County slaughterhouse was issued a cease and desist by the county.(CBS46)

Since then, Rudolph has slaughtered more than 3,000 animals, according to records obtained by CBS46 Investigates.

“If you woke up in the morning and found out your next-door neighbor was running a slaughterhouse, you would not be happy,” Jan Costello said.

Jan Costello and Erica Weaver live nearby. They say they don’t have a problem with what Rudolph is doing, but where he’s doing it.

“He’s surrounded on three sides by homes. Right down the street is an elementary school,” Jan Costello said. “He’s very clearly in a residential zone.”

One neighbor reported hearing gunshots on the property. Another worried about potential health effects.

“Somebody needs to come out here with a padlock and chain the gates closed. I, as a citizen, can’t understand why there are no repercussions for him,” Erica Weaver said. “Come out here and live next door to him and see what you think.”

We took their concerns directly to Rudolph.

“This is a residential neighborhood. There are houses up and down the street. You got a cease-and-desist order from the county but you continue to slaughter animals. What do you say to those people?” investigative reporter Rachel Polansky asked Rudolph.

“I’m a law abiding citizen. I file my income taxes every year. I pay my tax to be here. I own this property. I’m not in a position to start my life over,” Rudolph responded. “This is how I feed my family. I have an agriculture state license to do what I do.”

Rudolph has since sued DeKalb county in response to that cease and desist order, saying he’s owned the property since 2000 and he has a right to use the land as he sees fit.

A county spokesperson tells us that lawsuit is pending and is being handled by the county attorney’s office, which has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

“There’s enough privacy here that it’s not disturbing anybody,” Rudolph added. “I ain’t plan on going nowhere.”

Because Rudolph still has his state permit, neighbors have now turned to State Representative Viola Davis for help.

She echoes their complaints, telling CBS46 Investigates that Rudolph is also violating Georgia code.

“The permit said he cannot have commercial sales of that meat. Yet, this person is actually selling the meat on Facebook,” Rep. Viola Davis, House District 87, said.

Rudolph also advertises “custom kills” on his Facebook page.

Facebook account for Bradford's Livestock in DeKalb County, Ga.
Facebook account for Bradford's Livestock in DeKalb County, Ga.(Facebook)

The actual operation of the slaughterhouse is regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, so CBS46 Investigates took our findings there. They refused to comment on our investigation.

“The state in this instance is negligent in not enforcing the rules and regulations in the Georgia code. They need to repeal this permit,” Rep. Davis said.

Meanwhile neighbors say this fight is not just about a slaughterhouse – telling us when rules are broken, there are supposed to be consequences.

“When laws are not enforced, it erodes public trust in government and it weakens the law itself. It’s really a fundamental issue for our county,” Costello said.

At the end of the day, Rep. Davis says it’s the taxpayers who lose.

“When the state and county cannot see eye to eye, it forces us to go to court. The taxpayers, the voters, the homeowners lose because you spend unnecessary money in the court system, trying to make this person follow the rule of law,” Rep. Davis said.