H-PASO ROBLES

Oct 30, 2013 7:37 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

Family who owned steer that was set on fire speaks out

Paso Robles police are still looking for the person who set a five-month-old steer on fire.
It happened at an agricultural barn at Paso Robles High School sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning.

The steer is recovering at a ranch near the family's home.
The 16-year-old raising the steer says the animal is eating and drinking, which is a good sign but says at this point it is still a wait and see diagnosis.

"I didn't believe it at first when he called me, until I saw the pictures and it kind of blew me away, it was almost surreal," said high school junior Dylan Wilkinson.

"I've been showing cattle for three years I believe, that's by far my favorite," said Dylan who, raised sheep while a youngster in 4-H.

He was two months into raising his steer named Panda who was set to be shown at the Mid-State Fair next July.

"Time and dedication, and hard work," said Dylan when describing what it takes.

He says that dedication created a special bond with Panda.

"Ya sometimes he'll follow you around like a dog and stuff, and so it's pretty funny," said Dylan.

But Saturday morning, during a routine trip to care for the steer, everything changed.

"When I came on the scene I took a double take because I wasn't sure of what I was seeing," said Dylan's Father Rick Wilkinson who was the first to see Panda.

"The fire was all the way down to his belly, all the hair is burnt off of him on that side, and it really burnt his ears pretty good," said Rick Wilkinson.

The sight even had local police cringing.

"One of the police officers that showed up said he's been here 25 years and never seen anything like this," said Wilkinson.

But Dylan says somehow the incident wouldn't be the end for panda who survived the horrific attack.

"Pretty dang tough," said Dylan referring Panda. "Because I mean that's a lot to go through for an animal that young."

Dylan still plans to enter Panda into next year's competition. He's determined they will both grow stronger win or lose.

"The main reason would be to prove everybody wrong, just because this happened that won't hold me or him back," said Dylan.

Dylan says he's not looking for money, donations or another steer.
He says he just wants whoever is responsible to be caught.

Police say the high school does have security cameras, but it doesn't have cameras inside the barn.
That's something Dylan and his father rick want to change.
Crime Stoppers is offering a two-thousand dollar reward for information leading to an arrest.
A burnt steer fund has also been set up at Heritage Oaks Bank. That money goes towards security upgrades for the school's FFA program.

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