LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - The Limestone County Sheriff's Office is investigating a case of animal cruelty.
Investigators arrested 49-year-old David Coffman and charged him with a count each of animal cruelty and failure to properly bury dead animals after a complaint came into the Sheriff's Office Facebook page alleging Coffman was neglecting cattle on his property at Fred Bates Road.
Officials made contact with Coffman about the issue and thought they had the problem resolved. But just days later, an official complaint came in from a resident who lives near 80 acres of farmland Coffman leases on Persimmon Tree Road off Highway 99.
Seven cows were dead on the land and a calf was dying when investigators arrived. Two veterinarians confirmed around 50 cows were being starved.
When WHNT News 19 crews arrives on scene predatory birds were flying high above the property searching for carrion prey.
"I'm really shocked that these cows are in as bad a shape as they are," said Sheriff Mike Blakely. "Even the sage grass that's on this property, which has no nutritional value for the cows - they've even mowed it down."
The state veterinarian, Chris Bishop, told investigators this was the worst case he had seen in 26 years.
"If we don't get the problem rectified then the only other option we'll have is to come out and seize the cattle and we want to avoid that at all costs, but there's no excuse for someone allowing their livestock to get in this kind of shape," Sheriff Blakely said.
Coffman will be placed on a rehabilitation program of sorts where investigators will check on the cattle to make sure they are properly fed on a daily basis. Failure by Coffman to comply will result in confiscation of the livestock or further charges.
"When you've got cattle with the prices they're bringing now and someone just starves them to death - some of these cows actually eating the bark off the trees - so when you've got a situation like that there is no excuse," Sheriff Blakely said.
Healthy and alive, Blakely said the cattle could have brought around $8,000 each at sale.
Aside from the obvious, keeping his herd healthy and properly fed, Sheriff Blakely says Coffman could have avoided at least one of the charges with a simple phone call. The Limestone County Commission is on call to handle the burial of dead animals, whether they be horses, cattle or even a kitten.
"We want people to take care of what they're responsible for where we can go on fighting crime like we ought to be doing," Blakely finished.
WARNING: Some of the photos in the gallery may be disturbing. We did not include all photos provided by the Sheriff's Office because many were graphic. However, we included these to show the severity of the situation.