The owner of an animal sanctuary has been charged with third-degree larceny, a class D felony, for refusing to return cows that had escaped from their beef farm.
Tracy Murphy, 59, was arraigned Tuesday at the Niagara County Correctional Facility before Judge Pamela Rider, reported WGRZ-TV. She was freed on bond, though if convicted she could face prison time.
Murphy did not comment, though she pleaded not guilty.
State police had been called to Asha’s Farm Sanctuary, which Murphy owns, on July 25 “for a property retrieval of cows with the SPCA and the owner of the cows,” troopers said in a statement.
Police obtained a warrant and got the cows.
“The cows were located and returned to the owner,” police said.
It started innocently enough, McKee Farm owner Scott Gregson told USA Today.
He said that last month two of his beef cows had managed to escape the pasture of his farm in Newfane, New York, about 35 miles north of Buffalo, despite the electric barbed-wire fence surrounding it.
“I still to this day don’t know how they got out,” Gregson, 43, told USA Today on Wednesday. “The fence is in good shape, and the gates were all locked.”
He learned of his sacred cows’ escape when the SPCA called and said the animals had been at the sanctuary, about a half mile from his farm, for about five days. Gregson had never met Murphy but paid her a neighborly visit to seek his bovines. Things did not go as planned.
“She asked if I had proof I was the owner, then told me to get off her property because I was trespassing,” Gregson said.
After he called the cops and they returned his livestock, Gregson expressed both relief and regret.
“We are happy to have our cattle back,” he told USA Today. “We wish this would never have happened. We are a farm community, and cattle get out … people tend to help one another when that happens.”