Loyalton rancher guilty of neglecting livestock
A Loyalton cattle rancher who starved at least five calves to death in December 2001 was found guilty of animal cruelty this week by a Sierra County jury.
Truckee Animal Control Supervisor Dan Olsen called the abuse “one of the worst cases I’ve seen of just outright neglect.”
Sierra County contracts with Truckee to provide animal control services.
Silas Craig McHenry, 54, faces up to three years in prison and up to $45,000 in fines, as well as restrictions on animal ownership, Olsen said. He was convicted on five counts of animal cruelty.
“It really sends a strong message that you just can’t do this,” Olsen said. “You’ve got to care for your animals.”
Acting on a tip that McHenry’s cattle appeared starved, animal control officers visited McHenry’s Sierra Valley ranch on a cold, clear day in December 2001, Olsen said.
They discovered five dead calves, one dead bull and many skinny animals in the 100-head herd. Vegetation on the ranch couldn’t have supported the remaining cattle, Olsen said.
After consulting with a veterinarian, Olsen and his colleague Martin Schneider obtained permission from the Sierra County Sheriff to take custody of the herd.
The cattle remained on the ranch temporarily but were provided with food, Olsen said.
Two of the dead animals were sent to UC Davis for analysis, which revealed they had no body fat, Olsen said. McHenry had heaps of hay and plenty of water, he just hadn’t given it to the cattle, Olsen said.
“He didn’t think he was doing anything wrong,” Olsen said.
Criminal charges were filed against McHenry early in 2002, but a staff switch in the Sierra County District Attorney’s Office and other legal issues delayed the case until this month, Olsen said.
The trial lasted more than a week and concluded last Wednesday. The jury returned Thursday after finding McHenry guilty of five felony counts of animal cruelty.
McHenry will be sentenced July 13 at the Sierra County Superior Court in Downieville.