TROUBLESHOOTERS: Concern over cows in Mason County

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A Mason County woman said she’s tried to help a friend, but feels she’s not getting any assistance from county and state departments.

She called Jessica Cook for help.

There’s no doubt Kimberly Welsh has a love for animals, especially when they’re in distress.

“I think what happened is the summer went by. They had less and less grass to pasture on and he was only putting out about 2 round bales of hay for about 100 and something cows and babies,” said Kimberly Welsh.

The seasons changed in Mason County and the owner of the beef cattle, Larry Eldridge, ended up int he hospital.

“They ended up keeping him because he had bilateral pneumonia. I called his brother to make sure that somebody would be taking care of the cows and he said he would,” said Welsh.

Eldridge’s stepdaughter told Heart of Illinois ABC he had a stroke about 5 years ago.

He used to have a farm hand but no longer does, so now she goes to check on the cows.

She said by February of this year over 30 were dead.

“One of the most heart-wrenching pictures that I saw was a small calf and behind that was a baby. It was just so horrific to me…Everybody feels so bad because we had no idea what was going on up there.”

When asked what she thinks the cows would say this was Welsh’s response, “Why are you doing this? Why are you treating me this way? What did I do to deserve this?…How do you think they felt when they saw their brothers and sisters laying around dying?”

Welsh reached out to Mason County Animal Control, the State’s Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA, The Department of Agriculture, and Governor JB Pritzker’s Office.

“It’s hard because I do care for him, but I also care for those cows and I know he can’t take care of them. I don’t know what to do,” said Welsh.

The Mason County Sheriff told Heart of Illinois ABC his office received complaints regarding the cows, but deferred all other questions to the State’s Attorney, Zach Bryant.

Bryant said this started with the Department of Agriculture then his office started looking into the issue after.

Charges of Cruel Treatment and several counts of Violation of Owners Duties have been filed against Eldridge, both are misdemeanors.

He was never arrested.

Bryant said that’s a case by case basis and feels he filed appropriate charges.

Welsh added, “So we’ve already said we’ll help find the cows homes, but who is going to give us the authorization to do so? Why are they dragging their feet on this?”

That’s ultimately up to the state.

Welsh said her cries for help have fallen on deaf ears.

“He deserves to have a good life. You deserve to relax and not worry about having to take acre of that farm anymore. He can’t do it.”

She got permission from Eldridge for one cow.

She asked him to put the agreement in writing and date it.

“She was so skinny and malnourished and full of mites, bites, and worms…Now she looks much better. Her nose is wet. She’s so alert and very happy. To me it’s mine and Heather’s cow and we named her Stella. She’s never going to have a bad life again,” added Welsh.

A Heart of Illinois ABC crew went to Eldridge’s house to get his side of the story.

He took us through the fields so that we could see his livestock firsthand.

Eldridge said he’s owned the farm since 1974.

He denied an on-camera interview, but said it was a harsh winter and the cows were a little malnourished.

He added the roughly 75 cows he has now are doing better; his stepdaughter confirmed that information.

As for Stella, her livelihood is on the rise, but this story almost never got told.

Welsh received a threatening phone call the night before we met for our interview.

“Somebody has to step up and be the voice for them because I know this is not going to go away.”

As for what could happen to Eldridge, Mason County State’s Attorney Zach Bryant wouldn’t comment on the possibilities.

Bryant added that Eldridge has an attorney.

His next court appearance is later this month.

As for what the family wants out of this situation?

Heather said she wants the cows taken away and for someone to rent the pastures and bring in their own animals, that way Larry has livestock to enjoy without having to do any work.

Heart of Illinois ABC has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information about the Department of Agriculture’s visits to Eldridge’s property.

That request was denied since it’s an open case.

We’ll continue to follow this story as more information develops.


Jessica Cook

Jessica Cook

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