15 sheep left to die in Bennington County in ‘graphic’ animal cruelty case
A man from Massachusetts is facing more than a dozen animal cruelty charges after 15 sheep were found dead in a field in Pownal, Bennington County.
Documents say an animal control officer found a loose sheep near the Pownal Racetrack Solar Field on Aug. 3. Animal control contacted the Bennington County Sheriff’s Office, which says it was able to track the animal to a breeder in Brattleboro, Vermont based on an ear tag.
The breeder told police he had sold 19 sheep to graze in a field near the old racetrack in Pownal. Documents say the breeder told sheriff’s deputies the sheep were delivered to the field on May 31.
Sheriff’s deputies discovered 15 sheep dead in the field, baked in the heat of summer with no water, locked into a fenced area where the solar panels are kept.
Two rams survived and are reported to be healthy in the care of animal control. Two of the flock remain missing.
Lieutenant Joel Howard of the Bennington County Sheriff’s Office says this is one of the largest cases of animal cruelty the agency has seen.
“I’ve dealt with animal cruelty cases before, but nothing of this size,” he said.
Benjamin Cumbie, 50, was arrested on August 7 and arraigned Monday on 15 charges of animal cruelty.
Lieutenant Howard says the photos of the deceased sheep are too graphic to share.
“The animals basically were walking along, it looked like they passed out and died while trying to find something to drink,” he said.
Cumbie is from Boxborough, Mass., about an hour west of Boston. He told authorities he only left the sheep for a few weeks, and didn’t think they needed any extra water, besides what is in the groundwater and on the land. However, the enclosed area where they were left was formerly a blacktop parking lot. The sheep police found were reduced to bones, leading law enforcement to believe the sheep were left alone much longer.
“There’s limited feed other than what’s grown through the grass over the years, very limited water, there’s no actual running water, there’s no ponding, there were no water troughs here, there were no buckets for water, and honestly very few people knew that they were here,” Lieutenant Howard said.
Cumbie was released on his own recognizance. NewsChannel 13 called the number he gave authorities to ask him to respond to the allegations. We did not hear back.
The sheriff’s office says the investigation will be completed later this week.