MORGANTOWN — A community effort saved cows abandoned by their owner, who now faces criminal charges for his neglect.
Paul Templeton, of Morgantown, is charged with cruelty to animals and unlawful running at large of livestock.
His cows were escaping through a hole in the fence on his property and getting onto Summers School Road, said Chief Deputy Al Kisner of the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department.
He said deputies have been going back and forth with Templeton since last year, trying to get him to fix the fence. Templeton was charged with the two crimes July 13, and Kisner said the cows were sold Monday.
“I think what happened is he inherited the cows after a family member passed away,” Kisner said. “It finally got to the point where he was cited for the neglect and letting them run loose over the numerous times he’s been warned to fix his fence and hasn’t done so adequately.”
Carol Hart drives Summers School Road to her salon in Rock Forge every day and said she first noticed the cows trying to escape about three months ago. The cows seemed to be trying to get water by sticking their heads under the fence, she said.
About two weeks ago the cows were in the road, and grass and dirt around the eight cows was dry. Hart, who grew up with cows, said she realized they didn’t have any water.
Hart said she bought a 150 gallon water tank at Southern States and her daughter, Kristin, made a Facebook post asking for help filling it.
“The whole community pulled together,” she said. “Once we had the idea of filling the water tanks, everyone in the community started putting water into it.”
Another woman donated a second water tank and Carol’s nephew, a Clinton District volunteer firefighter, brought a tanker down to help fill the tanks.
Marcus Wilson is one of those community members who helped get water to the cows.
“I just wanted to make sure the cows had water on these hot days,” he said. “I felt really bad for them.”
Hart said Templeton was going to give other farms a bad name.
“He choose not to take care of them,” she said.
According to West Virginia code, a first offense is punished with an oral or written warning and a second offense within six months of the first is punishable by a fine of not less than $50 and not more than $100. A third or subsequent offense within six months is punishable by a fine of not less than $100 and no more than $1,000.
Cruelty to animals is punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of $300-$2,000, or both.