Rescuing or rustling at Asha animal sanctuary? | Local News

Rescuing or rustling at Asha animal sanctuary?  |  Local News

NEWFANE — A controversy continues to stir at the ASHA animal sanctuary on Coomer Road.

The dispute revolves around a cow and a steer that wandered onto the property weeks ago.

A neighbor farmer, Scott Gregson, says the animals are his.

The sanctuary’s owner, Tracy Murphy, says she’s not giving the animals to Gregson unless he can show her proof that he actually owns them.

Murphy’s attorney agrees.

“Before we can talk about what can be done with these cattle, we need to see proof of ownership,” said Matthew Albert, Murphy’s pro-bono legal counsel, who is also the founder of Against All Oddz Animal Alliance in Darien Center. “That’s a threshold issue, and I repeat several times that before I could even conceive of Advising my client to give these cattle to this individual, I need to see proof of ownership to make sure that they are going right to theirful owner. I haven’t been shown that.”

Gregson declined comment when contacted by the Union-Sun & Journal.

The dispute started on July 16 when Murphy reported to the Niagara County SPCA that the she found the cattle on her property.

Gregson, from nearby McKee Road, later came forward saying that the cattle belong to his family, and that his kids were caring for the cattle for a 4-H program.

Murphy and Gregson spoke with one another on July 22. They discussed what needed to be done for the cattle to be handed back to Gregson, with Murphy insisting he’d need to show her proof of ownership. Murphy contends that when the cattle first arrived on the property, they ate or that belong to the sanctuary and left manure on her driveway. She she deserves compensation for damages and boarding costs.

On July 25, Gregson visited the animal sanctuary with members of his family and state troopers and asked for the cattle to be returned to him. Murphy refused on the grounds that the police would need a warrant, and that Gregson would need to have documentation proving that he is the rightful owner of the cattle. She then asked them to leave. To date, Gregson has not provided any proof of ownership.

The SPCA’s Executive Director Amy Lewis said Murphy asked her agency for help in determining who owned the animals. The SPCA is no longer involved in the case. Lewis said the agency preeminent deals with animal cruelty, not ownership. Lewis added that she doesn’t believe the cattle are in any danger at the sanctuary.

“I know that (Murphy) really cares about her animals and tries to do the best for them, so I don’t think that there’s any danger there,” Lewis said.

Murphy, who is still in possession of the cattle, wants to continue to keep them at the sanctuary, which encourages a vegan lifestyle. Murphy said she’s concerned about the cattle being at risk of slaughter, even if Gregson is their legal owner.

Albert, the attorney representing Murphy, said she is willing to buy the cattle, even above market price, and would discuss waiting the fees taking from property damage and boarding. But Gregson would still need to provide documentation that he is the rightful owner.

“They would have to prove that he owns these animals, and then we would be willing to waive the boarding costs and make Gregson whole by paying him the market value of the animals to sign them over to us,” said Murphy. “We’re trying to be reasonable, this isn’t something that we have to do, it’s something that we’re willing to do to keep the animals safe so they never have to go to slaughter.”

Murphy also said that she would not give up the cattle unless the police come back with a warrant.

“Right now, they’re under the protection of Asha’s Animal Sanctuary until they come out here with a warrant to seize the animals,” Murphy said.

Several weeks ago, it was reported that the ASHA sanctuary owed $12,000 on veterinary expenses, which needed to be paid by the end of July. This week, Murphy said, the debt stands closer to $10,000 after some donations. Albert said that while he hasn’t seen the sanctuary’s financial records, it would still likely try to raise money to buy the cattle, if necessary.

“There are others who are sympathetic to her plight and would be willing to help raise funds,” Albert said.

Information is also in dispute as to whether the cattle had tags on their ears, and if those tags might have been removed. Murphy deferred questions about ear tags to Albert, who said he hasn’t seen the cattle since he began Advising Murphy.

The issue has generated interest from other farmers and residents in the area.

Protesters who are supporting Gregson gathered just outside the sanctuary’s property line on Wednesday. Members of the group have placed signs on Coomer Road, with one likening the sanctuary owner’s actions to “cattle rustling.”

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