Local News

Mar 3, 2014 9:07 PM by April Hansen, KSBY News

Sheep video prompts animal neglect investigation

After troubling videos were posted on the Internet, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office is now investigating possible animal neglect by a Paso Robles ranch owner.

Sheriff's officials say a flock of 25 sheep were found dead on Heritage Estates outside Paso Robles this weekend.

The people who found the sheep say they were disturbed by what they saw and posted videos online.

"Back here were dozens of struggling, dying sheep," said Paso Robles resident Adam Weissmuller

Weissmuller says he was walking his dog near Nacimiento dam last Friday morning when he found what he says was a horrible scene.

"They couldn't stand. They were foaming at the mouth. They were twitching with their eyes rolled into their head," said Wiessmuller.

He says many of the sheep were sheered and seemed too thin.

"If I saw any creature looking like that, I would think it was in distress," said Wiessmuller.

Officials with the Sheriff's Office say the 53-year-old veteran rancher told them he always sheers his sheep this time of year.

"Those that appear on there appear to be very thin. That may or may not be unusual for those types of animals this time of year especially with the drought conditions we have," said Commander Jim Taylor with San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office.

The rancher told Sheriff's officials the animals became ill and died after a major rainstorm hit the area.

"It's possible for a person not familiar with livestock to view them and feel that they are in a weakened condition when in fact they might not be," said Commander Taylor.

KSBY spoke with Robert Rutherford who is a retired senior sheep specialist at Cal Poly.
He watched the video and says the sheep appeared to be in poor condition.

"Probably the combination of being too thin and then the storm that came through probably caused the stress that ended up putting the sheep down," said Rutherford.

Wiessmuller says what he saw was tragic and hopes his videos will help figure out what happened.

"If people see this and react, this type of thing could be stopped," said Wiessmuller.
The ranch owner did not want to do an on camera interview at this time, but he reiterated what he told the Sheriff's Office told KSBY, that the storm was to blame.

The investigation is led by the Sheriff's Rural Crime Task Force.

The findings of the investigation will be turned over to the District Attorney's Office for any possible criminal neglect charges.

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