Police in North Yorkshire are now working to reunite the hundreds of suspected stolen animals with their rightful owners and have launched an investigation.
Over 400 animals – including dogs, sheep, goats, rabbits, turkeys, ducks and chickens – have been seized and are being looked after in secure locations.
Officers from North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce located a man in suspicious circumstances on land in the Thirsk area at about 4pm on Friday October 12.
Around 30 live turkeys were found in a pickup truck at the scene, and a large number of other animals were then located at the premises.
Two border collie dogs which had previously been reported stolen from an address in Lancashire were also located, and will be reunited with their rightful owners.
A vet attended to check on the welfare of the animals, but one of the goats and two of the turkeys had to be put down.
The 42-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of the theft of animals, money laundering and breaching an order disqualifying him from keeping animals.
He has been released under investigation while police enquiries continue.
The owner of around 40 chickens has already been identified and many of the sheep and goats have distinguishing identification marks or tag numbers but police are seeking help from the public to assist the investigation further.
Officers are in particular trying to locate the owners of 11 Swaledale tup lambs, and speak to anyone who lost or sold 30 turkeys on or around Friday October 12.
Sergeant Kevin Kelly, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said: “We really need the public to pull together with this one, and help us get the word out there, as we suspect that not all of the animals will be stolen from the North Yorkshire area.
“The sheer volume of animals makes this a complex investigation. Our priority has been to ensure that the animals are safe and well. We are working closely with the RSPCA as our enquiries continue, as we look to restore any stolen property to its rightful owners as quickly as possible.
“We are now speaking to the NFU and the farming community to help us establish the ownership of these animals. Thankfully, the owners of the two collie dogs are ‘over the moon’ to be reunited with their beloved dogs.”
Anyone with any information that could assist the investigation is asked to email [email protected] quoting reference number 12180191078.