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Six sheep on the lam after apparent theft
At least six sheep are on the lam after they were scooped from a fenced field next to a McDonald’s restaurant on Alderbridge Way sometime Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning.
“The livestock owner had 31 sheep grazing in the field but reports six that were taken at a cost of $250 per sheep,” said RCMP Cpl. Stephanie Ashton. Police are now investigating the apparent theft.
Property owner Modern International Holdings Ltd. had hired landscaping firm Magnolia Tree Services to maintain the field, on the 8100 block of Alderbridge Way, across from Lansdowne Centre shopping mall.
Magnolia’s Sandy Chappell has been taking plenty of heat for his decision to bring in the sheep on Sept. 4 to keep the grass and weeds in check. The next day, a restaurant manager voiced an objection with the city.
By bringing in the sheep, the landscaper was violating the city’s zoning bylaw, as domestic animals are prohibited from commercially-zoned properties, said city spokesperson Kim Decker.
Animal bylaw officers also inspected the large lot and found issues involving adequate shelter for the sheep, the supply of water and manure removal, she said.
The decision to bring in this eco-friendly field maintenance alternative was not authorized by Modern International, said manager Charles Lee.
“As property developers, we don’t want this kind of attention,” said Lee, whose company has made a rezoning application for a nine-storey hotel. Lee said Magnolia was initially hired to cut the lawn in May.
While city officials have been reasonable and understanding, and given Chappell time to remove the animals, pressure in recent days has ramped up with the involvement of Mayor Malcolm Brodie’s office to get the sheep removed more quickly, Chappell said Thursday.
And now, Chappell finds himself the focus of a B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals investigation into how he’s treating his animals.
“They’re bustin’ my chops for animal cruelty,” Chappell said. “You’d think I was murdering somebody, the way I’ve been treated.”
The sheep were deemed in good condition and well cared for, but the increasing pressure about animal cruelty allegations has prompted Chappell to hire a lawyer, and has him strongly considering taking the sheep to the market for sale.
Decker said the city recognizes that the landscaper meant well and appreciates that his method for maintaining the property was environmentally friendly.
But since the commercially-zoned parcel of land is smack dab in the middle of the downtown area, issues surrounding smells and noises need to be addressed.
Decker said the landowner is being cooperative, and no hard timelines have been set for the sheep to be removed.
Chappell admitted that bringing in the sheep has been more trouble than it’s worth.
The request that a shelter be built for the sheep, when they’re perfectly content to stay in the plentiful shade on the property, is ridiculous, he said.
Asked why he can’t simply pick up the animals and remove them, Chappell explained that’s no simple task considering the sheep don’t like being handled.
He described the sheep as still shell-shocked from initially being brought to an unfamiliar parcel of land.
Now that they’ve begun to settle in, he’ll have to round them up again, which will take time and a great deal of effort that will involve luring them slowly with oats and corn into an enclosure.
Knowing how difficult this task will be, Chappell can’t figure out how the poachers managed to round up six of them.
“They must have run them to death,” he said.
It wasn’t until the SPCA officer came to the lot and noticed one of his sheep was dead that Chappell did a count and realized some of his sheep had apparently been stolen. The dead sheep was foaming at the mouth, and Chappell urged the SPCA to do an autopsy to determine the cause.
Chappell said using animals to manage fields is something he’s done successfully in Ladner and on a farm in Richmond. His latest local experience? Not so good.
“It’s just been an absolute nightmare.”
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call the Richmond RCMP at 604-278-1212 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477.