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Animal Neglect Investigation Underway After 25 Sheep Dead

Videos online prompt SLO Sheriff's Office to investigate owner

Animal Neglect Investigation Underway After 25 Sheep Dead

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. - It's a disturbing piece of video that shows more than two dozen dead or dying sheep near Heritage Ranch in San Luis Obispo County. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate to see if this was a case of animal neglect.

Adam Weissmuller was walking his dog on Friday, not far from his house in Heritage Ranch. He says that's when he came across something that he wishes he never saw. More than two dozen dying or dead sheep near a creek, their wool sheared and their bodies appearing gaunt.

Weismuller's wife took and posted video online.

"They were foaming at the mouth," said Adam Weissmuller. "Their eyes were rolled into their head. They were shaking and twitching."

After making calls to the Sheriff's Office, the Weissmuller's went to check out the scene again the next day. This time they came upon the owner of the sheep loading the dead and dying bodies into a trailer.

The Sheriff's Office says the man is a 53-year old rancher who keeps about 700 sheep grazing near Heritage Ranch as part of a fire suppression program.

I found the man tending to his flock today, but when I approached him he told me he was advised not to speak with the media by his lawyer and investigators.

The Sheriff's Office said it's gathering information to find out if neglect caused these sheep to die. The report says the sheep were recently sheared before the storm over the weekend. Investigators will look into things like when the sheep were last sheared, and the condition in which the sheep were left during the storm to determine if neglect was a factor.

"We have to determine whether or not reasonable steps were taken to mitigate the threat that the weather posed," said Commander James Taylor with the Sheriff's Office.

Weissmuller says it's something he won't soon forget.

"It blew my mind, I haven't slept really since then," said Weissmuller. "To smell it and hear the guys breaking the bones on the sheep, it's just horrible."

Weissmuller is a small business owner in San Luis Obispo County. He says he has received threatening phone calls ever since the videos have gotten more attention. Weissmuller said, "I have nothing against the rancher. I'm just sorry this happened."

The Sheriff's Office says, with these types of investigations, they often look for outside expertise in the ranching business.

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