Sheep deaths, Mother Nature or animal cruelty?
March 3, 2014
By KAREN VELIE
EDITOR’S NOTE: See videos of sheep in creeks, dying and dead at Heritage Ranch and being tossed in a truck at the bottom of this story. The videos are disturbing and include cursing.
A young lamb struggles and appears to scream as a ranch hand drags it by its hind legs with its head bouncing on the ground to a truck loaded with dead and struggling sheep tossed on top of one another.
Dozens of emaciated sheep left to forage for food on the Village of Heritage Ranch’s barren open space have died long and painful deaths. Home owners hiking trails in the northern San Luis Obispo County village discovered the sheep and are pleading with law enforcement agencies and animal rights groups to protect the herd from what they call animal cruelty.
“You could see them throw dead sheep on the live ones and you could hear their bones breaking,” said Adam Weissmuller, a hiker who lives in Heritage Ranch. “It was the most heart wrenching thing I have ever seen.”
Jean (JB) Jaureguy, 69, began raising sheep in San Luis Obispo County 51 years ago. He currently owns more than 5,000 head of sheep he grazes in open space throughout several counties. Owners of land attempting to limit fire hazards allow Jaureguy to graze his sheep for a small fee, Jaureguy said.
Jaureguy contends the sheep are not starving and that they look thin because he had them sheared on Feb. 24, three days before a rain storm struck the Central Coast. Jaurequy believes the weather is to blame for the deaths of more than 30 sheep he had grazing at Heritage Ranch, he said.
If the deaths are because of the storm, they could be covered under livestock insurance which typically includes the loss of cattle and sheep due to weather and other perils.
“They look so poor because they are like a bald head, but they are not starving,” Jaureguy said. “They got cold, went into a ravine, piled up and died.”
However, videos taken by Jennifer Weissmuller show dying sheep and sheep carcasses on hillsides, in ravines and in creeks. The sheep in the videos appear abnormally thin and weak.
On Friday, Adam Weissmuller called the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department to report the dead and dying animals, though he said the county failed to send a deputy. On Saturday, he again called the sheriff’s office and also made reports to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Weissmuller said a sheriff’s deputy came out to Heritage Ranch over the weekend and opened a case. In addition, PETA officials viewed the videos and have concerns of animal cruelty, Weissmuller said.
Jaureguy said he met with deputies who suggested he call them for assistance if the Weissmullers confront him again. The deputies, Jaureguy said, know the Weissmullers do not understand sheep ranching.
“Those people you are talking to are nuts and do not know what they are talking about,” Jaureguy said. “It was the storm that hurt them.”
Videos taken Jennifer Weissmuller:
The following is a video taken by a homeowner at Heritage Ranch of abnormally thin and weak sheep left to graze on open space left barren because of the drought.
On Saturday, sheepherders are placing the dead and dying animals in trucks.
Sheep carcasses and dying sheep in a creek that feeds into Lake Nacimiento.
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