(Update: Adding video; more info from DCSO)
Tip led to search warrant; woman caring for ill husband; 'It got to a point where it was too much for her'
TERREBONNE, Ore. (KTVZ) – Acting on a tip of possible animal neglect, Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies raided a Terrebonne ranch Friday and Saturday, seizing 71 pigs and 16 goats and citing their 73-year-old owner.
Deputies executed a search warrant on Friday and Saturday at a ranch in the 5000 block of Tenth Street, Sergeant Jason Wall said. They were told of possible neglect involving livestock that included Kune Kune pigs, Guinea hogs, and dairy and meat goats.
"We received a tip from a person attempting to help with the animals’ care,” Wall said.
Asked how often such cases arise, Wall said Monday, "It is normal for law enforcement to get called when animal neglect is suspected. We don't deal with it as often as you'd think, considering how large of an agricultural community we live in."
"Sometimes they're unfounded, sometimes there's situations where the animals may appear to be malnourished, or appear to be neglected to the general public," Wall continued. "But once a vet tech gets out there, or someone with direct knowledge of livestock, sometimes those cases are unfounded."
During the investigation, deputies found the livestock on the approximately 17-acre ranch “were in dire need of intervention, namely veterinarian care and proper feed.”
The animals were taken to the 23-acre Sheriff’s Office Rescue Ranch on Rickard Road east of Bend, which serves as a rehabilitation center for neglected, abandoned or abused livestock. Wall said they are receiving vet care and appropriate feed.
"The food you see on the pallets was bought by the sheriff's office, but going forward we will be seeking donations from the community and also applying for some grants," Wall said said in regards to how the animals will be fed and who is paying for feed.
The owner was issued a citation in lieu of custody for second-degree animal neglect, the sergeant said, and the case is being forwarded to the district attorney’s office for review.
Wall said the woman is caring for her very ill husband, and while deputies did find that the “animals are in bad shape,” he added, “This is less a criminal case, as it is more a case of helping her and the animals.”
Wall said deputies removed "every single animal that was in some type of bad health or needed veterinarian care."
The Pet Evacuation Team said 20 members of the all-volunteer group assisted on-scene with the seizure, donating 153 staff hours. Veterinarians and other groups also were involved in helping at the scene.
"We did leave four Highland cattle on the property, at the advice of a vet on scene who said they were okay, with 17 acres to graze on," he said.
Wall said the animals were "only being fed alfalfa hay," which is not appropriate feed and left the pigs "very, very emaciated." Also, he said, their "hooves were not in good shape."
But the sergeant also noted that deputies found "evidence of some animals that had passed."
"It got to a point where it was too much for her," Wall said. A friend who is a vet tech had advised that she was in over her head, he said.
In fact, Wall said, "we offered her assistance" previously, but he added, "She's prideful."
Asked what happens next, Wall said, "The courts deem whether the animals are to be released and returned to the owner, at which point if they are released to us, we will adopt them out."
The woman was on scene Saturday as the removals were under way, and Wall said a deputy indicated she was "very thankful" and "in a sense almost happy" to be receiving the help.