Man Fires Shots as Animal Services Attempts Rescue

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Courtesy County of San Diego

June 21, 2016 (COUNTY NEWS SERVICE)

Things got hotter than they ever should have at the Border fire in the Campo area Monday when a man got a shotgun and fired shots to keep County employees from rescuing a burned emu.

Sean Michael Shepherd, 32, was arrested and charged with negligent discharge of a firearm and for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition Monday after the incident, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department officials said. Shepherd remained in jail Tuesday on $30,000 bail.

The incident occurred around 6 p.m. Monday. An animal control officer with the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services was on patrol in a vehicle in Campo during the fire and responded to a report from a passerby about the injured emu. A County videographer was traveling with the officer.

Sheriff’s officials said as the pair approached the bird, which appeared to be in distress, Shepherd accosted them and exchanged words with the employees. The emu does not belong to Shepherd, but to a neighbor. Shepherd went inside his home, returned with a shotgun and fired shots as the employees retreated. No one was hurt in the incident. The emu ran off and has not been seen by animal control officers since.

County Animal Services Director Dawn Danielson said animal rescues can be dangerous for the animals and the officers involved. She said California law and court decisions allow animal control officers to enter a property without a warrant when an officer has a reasonable belief that prompt action is needed to protect the welfare of an animal.

Danielson said an officer’s objective is to protect and rescue injured animals.

County animal services rescued dozens of animals threatened by the Border fire this week, including chickens, numerous dogs, sheep and horses. Local reporter Joe Little of 10News posted video of Animal Services officers in action.

“Generally the public is very supportive of our officers in the field,” Danielson said. “The best thing they can do to help us is to keep their distance and watch quietly. Otherwise an injured animal can get spooked and run off. Then our officer loses an opportunity to help that animal.”

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