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Alpacas found dead, starving

Owners of Falls City farm indicted on 18 animal abuse charges

More than 200 neglected alpacas were found at Jocelyn’s Alpaca Ranch in Falls City in December. Since, 175 alpacas have been taken into custody.

Polk County Sheriff's Office/for the Itemizer-Observer

More than 200 neglected alpacas were found at Jocelyn’s Alpaca Ranch in Falls City in December. Since, 175 alpacas have been taken into custody.

January 28, 2014

DALLAS — The owners of Jocelyn's Alpacas Ranch have each been indicted on 18 animal abuse charges after more than 200 starving or dead alpacas were found on their Falls City farm in December.

Jocelyn and Robert Silver were arraigned last week on identical charges, which include one count of felony first-degree animal neglect, one count of second-degree animal neglect and 16 counts of misdemeanor first-degree animal neglect.

The pair was indicted by a Polk County grand jury on Jan. 15 and appeared in court on Jan. 21.

Polk County Sheriff's Office began looking into conditions on the farm, which is located on Parry Road in Falls City, after receiving complaints from neighbors and the Animal Legal Defense Fund in early December.

According to court documents, an initial investigation of the property — what could be seen from the driveway — found evidence of malnutrition in the animals.

"In this pasture there was no green forage growing anywhere," wrote Deputy John Kincaid in an affidavit requesting a search warrant. "The trees in this pasture appeared to be devoid of bark (as high as the animals could reach)."

Once a warrant was granted for a "herd health check" with a licensed veterinarian, investigators found even more evidence of mistreatment, including dozens of dead alpacas and many others that were emaciated and weak.

A veterinarian conducting the health check on Dec. 13 found "evidence that the entire herd was not being provided minimum care," read Polk County's petition for forfeiture of the surviving animals filed on Jan. 21.

The herd of possibly more than 200 animals was restricted to only three acres on the 20-acre property, according to documents filed with the petition. Some hay and yard clippings were found on the property, but insufficient to feed all the animals. Investigators also believed the animals resorted to eating twigs, plastic, pieces of their shelters and even their own droppings.

Deputies found 18 dead alpacas on the farm Dec. 13, seven of which were taken, along with feed samples, for forensic testing. The results indicated the animals died from starvation.

An investigation revealed that starving alpacas resorted to, among other things, eating the bark off of trees for as high as the animals could reach.

Polk County Sheriff's Office/for the Itemizer-Observer

An investigation revealed that starving alpacas resorted to, among other things, eating the bark off of trees for as high as the animals could reach.

On Dec. 23, the sheriff's office took the remaining alpacas into custody. More than 30 more dead animals were found that day and two more had to be euthanized because they were too weak to stand, court documents said.

Currently, the county is feeding and caring for 175 alpacas, which remain on the farm. Polk County is seeking the surrender of the animals from the Silvers, said Jacob Kamins, a special prosecutor specializing in animal abuse cases in Oregon.

Kamins described conditions on the farm as "eye opening."

"Each time we went out there, there were a number of dead bodies," he said.

Polk County Circuit Court Judge Sally Avera entered not guilty pleas on behalf of both defendants on Jan. 21 and authorized their conditional release, though they were not in custody at the time of the arraignment.

Not initially approved for court-appointed counsel, Robert Silver asked for reconsideration, saying, "We have no money."

Avera reviewed the application and approved court-appointed counsel.

Jocelyn and Robert Silver are scheduled to next be in court for a pretrial conference Feb. 11.

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