SUMNER — A Sumner man is charged with animal cruelty in Dawson County Court after numerous malnourished and dead cattle were found in Eddyville and near Sumner.

According to court records, one cow died after getting caught in an electric fence at the Eddyville Rodeo grounds where the man was running cattle.

The cattle were owned by James Erwin, 53, of Sumner. He is charged in Dawson County Court with felony animal cruelty resulting in death and three misdemeanor counts of abandonment or cruel neglect of animals. The crimes allegedly occurred between March and mid-July.

Erwin was detained in the Dawson County Jail on July 30, according to court records, and posted a $500 bond that same day. Erwin is set to be arraigned on Aug. 20 in Dawson County Court. If convicted of all charges, he faces up to five years in prison.

Sign up for Kearney Hub news alerts

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

The case against Erwin is outlined in court records:

On July 22, two passers-by notified a Dawson County Sheriff’s deputy that a red cow was alleged to have been caught in an electric fence at the Eddyville Rodeo Arena. The passers-by allegedly told the deputy they had turned off the electricity to the fence, but the cow was “all but dead.”

The deputy then investigated the scene. She allegedly observed the cow caught in the fence and found that it was “partially alive, but unable to stand up.”

The deputy then received permission from an Eddyville Rodeo Committee member to enter and investigate the property. The committee member allegedly told the deputy he knew that there also were three dead cattle behind the bucking chutes and two dead calves in the grass lot.

When the deputy returned to the rodeo property, she found the dead cattle and saw that the red cow, which was caught in the electrical fence, had died.

A veterinarian then conducted an autopsy on the red cow. He allegedly found a dead calf inside the cow’s body.

The autopsy also allegedly revealed that the cow had hemorrhaging around her heart, which may have been caused by electrocution. Several of the cow’s internal organs allegedly were jaundiced, which the veterinarian advised is “indicative of the cow breaking down her muscle tissue to help feed herself.”

The remaining 16 cattle on the property allegedly appeared to be malnourished and were transported to the Lexington Livestock Market.

On July 24, law enforcement searched Erwin’s property at 44705 Drive 767, east of Sumner. There they located Erwin’s cattle.

“... the calves appeared to be lethargic and slow moving, many of which appeared thinner than a standard calf of similar age,” the report alleges, “and the cows and bulls appeared thin with bones being displayed on their hips, pelvis and rib cages.”

Law enforcement also allege that Erwin’s property and a neighbor’s property, where the cattle had roamed to, were void of forage, stacked hay bales, alfalfa bales, bags of feed, salt or mineral. The cattle and a bay horse were transported to the Lexington Livestock Market.

A veterinarian later inspected the animals that were located on Erwin’s property. The veterinarian alleged that the animals displayed different stages of neglect.

@erikadpritchard