Animals not Seized Despite Horrific Cruelty Uncovered by CAPS and Sheriff
The Ottawa County Attorney’s Office charged Kevin Daniel Vesterberg with 10 counts of animal cruelty on June 4, 2021. At his preliminary hearing on June 15, the court granted Vesterberg a continuance until July 13. CAPS Kansas Director Debbie Miller spoke to Undersheriff Russ Thornton at the courthouse. He told her that the sheriff’s department does not intend to seize any animals, even though they don’t believe veterinary care has been provided.
K.S.A. §21-6412 (e) states: Any public health officer, law enforcement officer, licensed veterinarian or officer or agent of any animal shelter or other appropriate facility may take into custody any animal, upon either private or public property, that clearly shows evidence of cruelty to animals
CAPS has retained a Wichita, Kansas attorney to petition the court on our behalf so that we can take control of the Vesterberg sheep, goats, and rabbits. We are also hiring a forensics veterinarian to write an opinion based on our photographs and video of the animal cruelty. A Kansas goat farmer has agreed to testify about acceptable standards of care. CAPS has lined up sanctuaries to take the animals so that they will receive appropriate veterinary care and be able to live out their lives peacefully.
On May 24, Ottawa County Deputy Sheriff Tyler VanCoevern responded to the Companion Animal Protection Society’s complaint that animals were in a severe state of neglect on one of Virgil Vesterberg’s properties, which is 2.56 miles from his residence.
At least 60 animals, including three rabbits, were in a state of neglect: emaciated sheep and goats, a sheep with hooves over a foot long, a sheep with a bloody prolapse, several limping animals, and a rabbit with an oozing eye infection. Dozens of sheep and goat remains were in various states of decomposition on the property, with countless bones on the property. Food and water were not available to live animals.
VanCoevern contacted Virgil Vesterberg to get food and water to animals. VanCoevern also released animals from pens so those capable of walking out could get access to plants outside their corrals. The sick and injured animals have not received veterinary care since CAPS first uncovered the cruelty on May 24.
VanCoevern has been checking on the animals almost daily. He arranged for David Keith Wallace, DVM, from Sunflower Veterinary Service in Minneapolis, Kansas to go to the property for additional documentation of the animals. Dr. Wallace did not show up until May 29 and refused to shake hands with the CAPS investigator or Miller, whom VanCoevern had invited to assist with documenting neglected animals. Dr. Wallace noted that there was no well on the property, making it difficult to provide water to the animals. All of the parties submitted evidence to Ottawa County Attorney Richard Buck.
On June 4, Buck charged Kevin Vesterberg with 10 counts of cruelty to animals. Despite the many dead bodies and skeletal remains on the property, there are no cruelty charges for these animals, who most likely died from starvation, dehydration and untreated diseases and infections. Unfortunately, the court has ordered the Vesterbergs to provide care for the very animals they have been neglecting. In addition to providing water, they are using very old hay to feed the animals.
Deputy VanCoevern responded to a 2012 complaint about Vesterberg pigs without water in nearly 100 degree heat and a dead animal smell. He found that the pigs in question lacked water, sufficient shade and wet mud, which pigs use to protect their skin from the sun and insects. Kevin Vesterberg admitted that one pig had died from sun exposure, and he had dragged the body off to a pasture. No charges were brought against Vesterberg.