About two dozen llamas — worth about $1.6 million — were stolen and multiple other animals set free from a California exotic animal farm this week, possibly by animal rights activists, according to reports.
Trespassers cut the lock of the 14-acre private Perris farm in the pre-dawn hours Monday — taking the llamas with them and letting the other animals loose to wander near a busy roadway, two local outlets reported.
“We received a call about 6:30 a.m. regarding numerous llamas and emus walking on Orange,” Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Robyn Flores said in a statement released to NBC Palm Springs. “During the investigation, it was learned that a lock on the fence had been cut, which allowed the animals to leave the property.”
Animal control officers, deputies and operators of the farm managed to corral the loose animals — but investigators determined that between 20 and 30 llamas were trucked away by unknown suspects, according to Flores.
Animal rights activists recently claimed on social media that the llamas, emus, ostriches, buffalo and other livestock kept on the farm were being abused and neglected — allegations that county officials said were not backed by evidence, according to the NBC affiliate.
Riverside County Animal Services Department spokesman John Welsh told the network that the county’s code enforcement department did open a case on the farm, but could not elaborate on the details.
If there was any evidence of animal cruelty, the facility would be shuttered, according to Welsh.
“We have actually had full cooperation from the custodians, they’ve allowed us to do a walk through and they see plenty of food,” the spokesman said. “We have never walked across an animal that’s abused or neglected, certainly not emaciated, we deal with this type of stuff all of the time and the animals seem to be of good weight.”
One farm employee cast the blame on the activists, saying they are never satisfied, according to KRON 4.
“We had animal control out and code enforcement and everybody’s happy except for the activists,” caretaker Mike Penwell said. “And now they come in the middle of the night cutting the fence open and letting all the animals out.”
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