GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Gwinnett County authorities admit they are struggling with how to handle an alleged case of animal cruelty.
Officers in Suwanee are trying to work out some deals to fix the situation where dozens of livestock are allegedly being mistreated. Officers say the situation is complicated because the owner involved is 85 years old.
The cattle in question are badly malnourished and county leaders agree and say unless they are sold, felony charges could be filed.
“They are basically my family,” said rancher John Lamb. I love them, I really do. I love them.
Lamb has more than 50 cattle on 80 acres along Sunny Hill Road in Suwanee. As they graze, bones can be seen through the skin of some of the cattle. Gwinnett County Animal Control said it found 10 dead cows on the ranch a few days ago. Authorities believe the animals were malnourished.
“That’s just not true. I feed them tons and tons of hay and I buy bag feed. For them to tell me I'm not taking care of them is just false,” Lamb said.
Lamb blames the animal cruelty allegations on a bad batch of hay. Some nearby residents said they've watched the animals go downhill for the past three years,
“We just saw one a couple of weeks ago that was sitting up and it was so weak it couldn't even sit up. It just fell over,” said resident Jackie Brown.
Brown said after repeated calls, animal control has finally taken an interest, but officials are stumped on what to do. They could seize the animals, but aren't really prepared to care for so much livestock. They can't legally sell them. Plans for other ranchers to purchase the cows have fallen through.
“It’s just inhumane. You just cannot not feed your animals,” Brown said.
Gwinnett County police said they can make a case for animal cruelty, but aren't looking to toss the 85-year-old in jail. Lamb said he's hired a lawyer.
“They were going to come get my cows and haul them off and not pay them for me,” Lamb said.
Lamb said he has plans if they do come and take his cows or sell them off -- He said he'll go right back to a cattle auction and buy more.
Authorities are still weighing what to do.