Sheep deaths, Mother Nature or animal cruelty?

March 3, 2014


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.

sheep4Dozens 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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Horrible. God damn the abusers who allowed this to happen. No excuses.


After reading a dozen posts and the article, and having an acre or two of grazing land in a parcel or two, it appears there’s plenty of blame and misinformation to go around:

First: It says “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”. How many times must we see that the SLOSD and other law enforcement ONLY investigate what they find interesting. The rest, even torturing livestock on bare, denuded pasture, just doesn’t get much attention.

Second: we all know there is no grass, until this recent gift of rain. The owner of the animals SHOULD have been giving them supplemental because the pastureland out here (north county) looks like the surface of the moon in many pastures including mine. This is a tough year for grazing animals. Since it’s not legal to feed the starving deer, I would never happen to mention my happening to have lost some bales of alfalfa mysteriously out the back of my pickup in a fallow unused pasture. Must’ve been alfalfa poachers grabbing them from my truck at night. The drought is hurting many species; how could this sheep guy not know this?

Third: Since he didn’t offer that he’d been providing supplemental feed, THEN said they looked that way from rainfall, this guy is bad, and is what gives legitimate animal husbandry a bad name.

Fourth: Irresponsible overgrazing is nothing new. For years I’ve rebuilt fences due to overgrazing neighbors having marauding cattle, some of it where I share a fence with county property where the county does not supervise or interdict the overgrazing of a leaseholder. Some punishment may be in order here.

I generally do not support “animal rights” style prosecutions, but this sheepherder needs a whippin’ at a post for the obvious severe emaciation.


It will be important to determine if this grazing occurred on private land or public land. As with all grazing, it is critically important to manage the range land in a mutually beneficial manner. The animals and the land must remain healthy without creating overgrazing, under nourished stock, or erosion.

All public property requires CEQA, as does any public property that may be directly affected by adjacent private property.

Unattended, sheep are much more difficult to control than cattle, and thus need proper daily accounting and herding.

As far as supplemental feeding, my guess is that the cost was considered to be more than the loss of the sheep, if indeed some died of starvation. Sheep are always on the move and HAVE to be monitored responsibly. Unfortunately not all the herders are capable of doing just that. Many don’t speak English and often times there is a language barrier that prevents effective communication between property owners and the herders.

The counties should adopt a policy whereby and time a land use change is proposed…like grazing, that a grazing management plan be submitted for review and approval/disapproval.

Because sheep grazing is so limited in SLO and Monterey Counties and is done almost exclusively by the, there is little or no oversight.

This needs to be changed.


Has anyone ever heard of insurance fraud?????


To the Weissmullers: Is there a way that people can bring hay and dump it over the fence for these animals? The sheep are starving; there is no doubt in my mind. And while the sheriff’s department ponders its response, I, for one, would be willing to bring out some hay.

My phone number is 805 226 9085.


If you have a plan I’ll chip in a little, and shake down some friends and relatives for a lot more.


For many years, I worked with JB as a contractor and monitor of his grazing leases.I have witnessed the herding process, sheep shearing and care of thousands of sheep on government land.

Our leases were very clear as to how the animals were to be cared for and the available forage was closely monitored, as we did not allow supplemental feeding.If the grasses weren’t available, the sheep had to be removed.

In all my years, I have never seen JB”s sheep look like some of the ones in the video. It is true that immediately after shearing, they take on a rather gaunt appearance some even bleeding where the shears have nicked them during the process.

What appears to me, is that the newly sheared sheep were not properly herded and monitored. for whatever reason the herder of the dogs lost track of these sheep and they were left to the elements, probably with little or no grass to feed on due to the drought.

If you look closely at the video, the ground is bare.

during each grazing season there are incidental deaths of sheep sometimes from disease, and some from predation.

I never once observed JB being cruel to his animals something appears to have gone terribly wrong.

This appears to be very unusual for whatever reason and should be investigated.


Even if JB had contracted out, this situation is horrific and he is to some extent accountable for the situation. He has not claimed to be ignorant of the plight of his animals and disputes that the public is uninformed of how livestock should be treated, so it appears that not only was he aware of the problem but that he did not care. A sad situation all around. JB should not be allowed to keep livestock if this is how they are treated.


Of course he’s responsible.He does not contract out, he is the lessee to those who choose to lease their property for grazing purposes. He is only the tenant.

Responsible property owners craft leases that ensure the health of the animal as well as the range land. Responsible lessees should do the same. Obviously this didn’t happen.

Grazing 5000 sheep at this time of year, during the worst drought in recent history, makes no sense. When grazing on private property there is virtually no accountability for the allowable AUM’s, stocking levels, RDM, carrying capacity, and sustainability.

Basically there is no grazing management plan, and in this case, the results are obvious.

Coast Watcher

It doesn’t take a degree in animal husbandry to see this is incompetant livestock

management. Shearing sheep before a forecast storm was callous and profit motivated. I cannot imagine with his decades of herd experience that he did not know how this weather wouldeffect his herd. It would be interesting to hear his ratrionale for his actions, or inaction, but I would say the videos are pretty clear about results. Cruelty is defined as: “callous indifference to or pleasure in causing pain and suffering”. I think the videos speak for themselves.

The only way action will be taken is if these videos go viral with national exposure and the

county is embarrassed into taking action.


Here’s the deal; if you’ve been here longer than the regulations, or if you’ve just ignore them with impunity, you are exempt. This is why you vote for Debbie Arnold. God Bless the Tea Party and free-market animal torture. There is no way they can ring this guy up in SLO County. Watch the sheep die.

concerned reader

If you google any image of a newly sheared sheep, they look NOTHING like Mr. Jaureguy’s sheep did. His sheep are clearly starved and poorly cared for. I am so disgusted.


Mother Nature.

What good are dead animals to a guy that makes $ off of them. Those city folks that took the video were seeing what they wanted to, not was actually happening.

concerned reader

Are you serious? If this man had to contract with Heritage Ranch to feed his animals in the first place, what good are they to him alive? Also, have you been to Heritage Ranch? I’d hardly call the people that live there city folk.


Go back and look at the video, sheep will eat anything. And everything. They will get on their hind legs and trim every tree in site. Just living in HR doesn’t make you an aggie. Wise up. I will bet e weeks wages the sheep guy has no insurance to cover his loss, if he did, the adjusters would be on the scene, not just the hired hands removing his dead stock. Tragic for the sheep, but not a function of neglect


If you’re an animal exploiter rather than their guardian, dead animals are just fine — they don’t have to be fed, moved around, sheared or any of the other troublesome things live animals require. He’ll get some money from the tallow works or fertilizer factory for the dead ones, then collect insurance too. He’ll get his money out of them. It’s a lot less trouble than being a responsible sheepherder. Grab what you can while you can. That’s probably why he had them shorn in the middle of winter, too — get that wool before they die.


Not sure on this one way or the other. Could it be a case that he sheared at wrong time and stressed them?

Also on some of them being thin it says you fast them before shearing. See article and pic of sheep on left side of page. It looks like a lot of them in video here.

I would like to see more information before I say if something sinister is going on here or not or do we have some city people that don’t understand??

concerned reader

First off, if Mr. Jaureguy had his sheep sheared 3 days before a storm he knew was coming, that in itself is neglect. For obvious reasons, this man is trying to cover his tracks. This is a clear case of animal abuse, and this man deserves to be prosecuted. It’s very disturbing any human being could treat their animals in this manner. If Mr. Jaureguy discovered his “sick” animals, why would he proceed to THROW them into piles with other dead and dying sheep? Wouldn’t a concerned shepherd treat those animals with care and try to nourish them back to health? This is appalling. People need to take a stand so this man doesn’t get away with this and so his other sheep don’t die agonizing deaths, such as these ones did.

Also, to suggest that Mr. and Mrs. Weismuller are crazy is absurd. They should be commended for bringing attention to this issue and taking video of the “evidence” Mr. Jaureguy was clearly trying to destroy.


I use the word UNDERSTAND with a QUESTION MARK as I am not saying I am ASKING and you get crazy from that???


Obviously you’re an expert on sheep herding!

Why would anybody who knows sheep shear them in the middle of winter and then turn them loose into the frigid nighttime hills of north county? Wool is their winter coat. If shorn, sheep need protection or warm temps. Clearly, the “shepherds” are at best idiots.

“Fasting” isn’t the same thing as starving. These sheep are run down. That means long-standing neglect, intentional or otherwise. The guy’s probably just too cheap to supplement their forage.


Wow the comprehension in reading is lacking today. I asked everything as a

QUESTION as yes I am not an expert. Hence I posted article because I am curious as I stated, if a very bad time to shear, because we are still cold??


You ask a very valid question regarding the temperature and shearing. I don’t think people are disagreeing with you as much as they are not comprehending your questions. Your first statement was confusing and needed some clarification.


Probably true, that is why I replied. My point, everyone in this country is innocent till proven guilty but yes let them investigate and if he is guilty by all means prosecute. I don’t agree with animal cruelty.

My point was I look around the internet and they talk about fasting etc. so I want to make sure am I interpreting the pictures correctly. Second yes the animals are dying but is this with intent or neglect. Both are serious and both should be addressed but just like murder that is first, second degree or involuntary, each will have a profound effect on sentencing.

Bottom line how did this play out. Right now none of us know for sure.

concerned reader

What we do know from reading this article and watching the video is the following:

1. “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.” (opening statement of the article)

2. Mr. Jaureguy decided to shear the sheep for their annual shearing right before a storm, knowing these animals had no shelter. What we can infer from this, is Mr. Jaureguy was fully aware of their abnormally thin appearance.

3. There is no grass for the sheep to feed on. (clearly seen in the videos)

4. The animals are clearly emaciated, a result of being improperly cared for a long period of time.

Based on these facts, Mr. Jaureguy IS guilty of animal cruelty. I agree we don’t know for sure WHY these animals suffered and are suffering at the hands of this rancher. It could be for a number of reasons, most of them monetary. Or, it could be a case of neglect and complete disregard for the lives of these animals (as was seen from the way the living animals were dragged around and thrown into piles with dead sheep). Whichever reason it is, Mr. Jaureguy should be held accountable and should not be allowed to treat other animals in this manner. If the sheep had simply been “forgotten” about, then one would expect to see Mr. Jaureguy making every effort to restore the animals back to health. This is clearly not the case.


Are you the judge and jury? No. Neither am I. As I stated, let the law investigate and if guilty then so be it.