Authorities suspect the work of animal rights activists after dozens of llamas were set loose from an animal farm outside of Los Angeles.
The exotic animal farm had been criticized on social media by activists claiming the animals there were being mistreated. The Riverside County Sheriff Department were first alerted to the release after dozens of animals were spotted running along a busy roadway in Perris, about 70 miles east of L.A.
Deputies from the department and officers from the Riverside County Department of Animal Services rounded up about 30 llamas.
The llamas were freed after someone cut the lock to a fence and loaded them onto a truck before dawn on Monday. The stolen animals were worth about $1.6 million.
The intruders, whom Riverside County authorities say may have been animal rights activists, also cut a gate lock to let other animals at the 14-acre farm at Orange Avenue and Murrieta Road in Perris escape, the Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside reported.
After rounding up the animals, farm owners and authorities realized 20 to 30 llamas remain missing and may have been hauled away, KESQ reported.
“We received a call about 6:30 a.m. regarding numerous llamas and emus walking on Orange,” said Deputy Robyn Flores, according to KCBS.
A lock was cut and 20 to 30 llamas were reported stolen Monday, Dec. 30, from an exotic animal property near Perris that has been targeted on social media, including a call for a “mass rescue” for what a county animal services spokesman called an unfounded claim of animal cruelty.
Riverside County sheriff’s deputies were called just after 6:30 a.m. Monday to the 14-acre property at Orange Avenue and Murrieta Road in a county area near Perris after llamas and emus were seen walking.
“During the investigation, we learned that a lock on the fence had been cut, which allowed the animals to leave the property. There were also 20-30 llamas stolen from the property,” she said. The case was under investigation, and no suspects had been arrested, Flores said.