Monday, January 23, 2017

Oregon: Michael Hockensmith, 55, facing charges after dead, starving cattle discovered

OREGON -- Fourteen dead cattle were discovered Saturday at a property on Columbia Lane and South Edwards Road in Hermiston, which the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office is investigating as a case of animal neglect.

Another 15 cattle were so malnourished they could not be moved safely, according to Sheriff Terry Rowan. One calf was so weak it could not stand and had to be euthanized, Rowan said. None of the sick animals appeared to have enough food or water.

Authorities are working with a special prosecutor from Benton County who specializes in animal neglect cases, and reports should be turned in to the Umatilla County district attorney early this week.

Rowan said they will recommend pressing charges against the cattle owner, 55-year-old Michael Hockensmith of Hermiston.

For now, though the cattle have technically been seized, Rowan said the animals will be left in place due to their numbers and fragile health. Officers will be checking daily to make sure they receive proper care.

“We do not believe they can be transported without further loss,” Rowan said. “From this point forward, we’re just ensuring continued care.”

The incident was first reported Thursday, Jan. 5 by an anonymous caller who noticed seven dead cows that were clearly visible from across Columbia Lane. A search warrant was served Saturday, and Rowan said they found a total of 14 dead cattle — mostly yearling calves.

Fifteen more cows were badly malnourished, Rowan said, and separated from the rest of the herd where they were treated by veterinarians. During their investigation, officers found that a water trough for the sickest animals was frozen over with six inches of ice.

“They weren’t able to get to water for a couple of days,” Rowan said.

Some of the cattle were also very skinny, Rowan said, with their backbones and hip bones showing.

“These are Angus cattle that are typically well-rounded animals,” he said. “Our evaluation and evidence would point to neglect or inadequate feed.”

The bodies of the dead animals had been left outside for several days, Rowan said, though state law requires carcasses be buried or burned within 15 hours.

Hockensmith, who did not return calls Monday for comment, was apparently the only one caring for the animals. Rowan said Hockensmith seemed willing to work with the sheriff’s office to care for the animals while they remain on his property.

“Hopefully, we can create a partnership there to where he is willing to provide adequate care,” Rowan said. “We will just continue to monitor it.”

(East Oregonian - January 9, 2017)

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