CAPS Pursued Every Route to try to Rescue the Animals and Send Them to a Forever Home at The Gentle Barn
In late May, while investigating puppy mills, CAPS’ lead investigator discovered a property, owned by Virgil Vesterberg, in Miltonvale, Kansas (pop. 539) on which approximately 60 sheep and goats and three rabbits were suffering horrific cruelty. There was no food or water available to them, and many of the animals were sick, severely injured, and starving.
Our investigator also discovered dead bodies and skeletal remains on the property. In response to our complaint, the Ottawa County Deputy Sheriff made a visit to the property. In early June, the Ottawa County Attorney’s Office then charged Kevin Vesterberg, the man responsible for the animals, with 10 counts of animal cruelty. Kansas law allows law enforcement, veterinarians, incorporated humane societies, shelters or other appropriate facilities to take custody of animals where there is evidence of cruelty. We finally found an attorney to petition the court on our behalf for custody of the animals. Our petition included a 10 page affidavit from a forensic veterinarian and a ruminate veterinarian. The Gentle Barn agreed to rescue the animals, and provide them with necessary care and a peaceful forever home at their sanctuary in Missouri.
A district court judge granted an emergency order giving possession of the animals to CAPS on July 23, 2021. The rescue was to take place on July 26 with The Gentle Barn planning to receive the animals at their Missouri sanctuary. However, the day of the rescue, the judge held a hearing to reconsider his order granting us possession. This hearing was held without sufficient notice to CAPS’ attorney. He gave him less than an hour’s notice and held the hearing at a time when he knew our attorney would be in another court.
Since that time, CAPS continued to work tirelessly, pursuing every route to ensure that the rescue would be allowed to continue. That is why we are devastated to announce that the court has confirmed, via the transcript of the order our attorney finally received on August 20, that the animals are no longer on the property.
The court allowed the defendant to sell the animals, probably for slaughter, rather than allow CAPS to take possession and give them new lives at The Gentle Barn. While this is not the outcome we wanted, we are deeply grateful to our supporters in this effort. CAPS thanks The Gentle Barn for its willingness to help these animals, and we look forward to working with their amazing team on future rescues.
Though we are disappointed and saddened, we remain vigilant in our fight against animal cruelty, and we will continue to work diligently towards a world in which cruelty such as this is no longer tolerated. While our mission is dedicated to animals suffering in the pet shop and puppy mill industry, CAPS believes that all creatures have the right to live their lives free from cruelty and injustice.