ORRINGTON, Maine — Town officials and local police say an elusive bull that had been on the loose for nearly a month had to be shot because it was damaging property and endangering residents. The son of the bull’s owner, however, says officials overreacted and his family is threatening to sue.
“To me, this whole situation was a cruelty to animals action,” Dale Henderson, son of farmer Herbert Henderson, said at Monday’s selectmen’s meeting. “I call it cowboy cops.”
A majority of the 40 or so residents at the meeting disagreed, with at least 10 voicing their opinion that the shooting was justified.
“They are dangerous,” a Johnson Mill Road resident said, referring to the numerous cows and bulls that have escaped over the past two months from Herbert Henderson’s farm near the junction of Dow Road and Center Drive. “I’ve had several charge me. I wanted them off my yard and tried to shoo them away. They don’t shoo away.”
The town has estimated that the runaway cows and bulls have caused $5,400 in damage to nearby property. Town Manager Carl Young said Orrington’s animal control officer has issued Henderson several animal trespass tickets, but the animals continue to escape.
“In the month of August, we had 66 animal trespass complaints,” he said. “In July, there was a similar number.”
One of the larger animals, a 2-year-old bull, was shot on Aug. 23, nine days after a letter was sent to Henderson, informing him that police were directed to shoot any loose animals perceived to be a threat to the public.
A resident asked whether the renegade cows had injured anyone, and Young said, “No,” but added that the liability remained with the town to protect the public.
Dow Road resident Jennifer Lauhon also responded by asking whether the town was supposed to wait until someone was hurt before taking action. “Were we going to wait until that happens?” she asked. “Were we going to wait until they kill someone?”
Tracy MacDonald and her husband, Scott Welch, who live on Stomp Lane, said they considered the animals dangerous. The couple discovered after arriving home from vacation on Aug. 3 “roughly 26 cows that were running loose” on their property.
“I am afraid of 26 cows,” MacDonald said, adding she didn’t dare to walk down her road.
Dale Henderson said he was very upset about the bull being shot and about his father not being informed about the shooting in time for him to harvest the meat. A private investigator has been hired to look into the matter to see whether a lawsuit should be brought against the town, he said.
During Monday’s meeting, residents also learned that restraining orders have been issued against Town Manager Carl Young, Sgt. Jon Carson, Orrington’s community policing supervisor for the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department, and Deputy Chad Young, barring them from interfering with the property or livestock of Herbert Henderson.
Meanwhile, Henderson, 78, is scheduled to appear in 3rd District Court in Bangor on Sept. 23 to face several charges of property damage and animal trespass. Also, in the past month, nearly half of his 100 head of cattle have been sent to market to make the farm more manageable.
To end the discussion Monday, Welch handed town leaders an animal ordinance similar to one in place in Brewer and asked them to adopt it.
“Any ordinance has to go to town meeting,” Chairman Howard Grover said. “We’ll look over this and get back to you.”