GOVERNMENT animal welfare officials are investigating claims that a flock of sheep are being neglected.
They are investigating complaints about the 30 sheep, left to graze on a small plot of Yorkshire Water-owned land near Holmbridge since 2008.
Almost immediately, nearby residents and local farmers began making reports to Kirklees Animal Welfare and the RSPCA, amid claims the sheep looked malnourished.
But despite the multiple complaints, no punitive action was taken and more than a quarter of the sheep have now died, the residents claim.
Jill Martin, whose Brownhill Lane property overlooks the flock, said yet more had died over the last few weeks.
Mrs Martin said Kirklees Animal Welfare had said the situation was being closely monitored, but said the lack of action was extremely distressing for those who lived in the vicinity.
She said: “Animal welfare have finally managed to send out a Defra (Department for Farming and Rural Affairs) vet.
“He seized a carcass and it has been sent to Thirsk for a post mortem.
“We know four have died since Christmas. They were only young, last year’s lambs.
“In August 2008 and again in 2009, two ewes with prolapses were spotted and both had to be destroyed by the RSPCA.
“Had the sheep been checked daily by their owner these animals may have been spared suffering.”
Eric Wagstaff, who also lives at Brownhill Lane, said the state of the sheep had been so bad that passing walkers had been inquiring into whose they were.
He said: “The sheep were stood there waiting for the grass to pop through. They did not have enough to eat.
“They’re young and they should be strong, but they don’t look strong.”
The group of residents said they did not know who the owner of the sheep was, but thought he might be from Meltham.
A spokesman for Kirklees Council’s animal welfare department said: “Staff became aware of this case in December and, over several weeks, have made a number of visits to check the conditions the sheep have been kept in.
“Every time we have been contacted we have taken swift action, but on each visit we have found food, water and extra feed to be available.
“Although staff have not seen any evidence of neglect, we quickly brought in Defra after being told that two sheep had died.
“The welfare of animals is taken very seriously and we are also doing our best to contact the owner of the animals and discuss the situation with them.”
A spokesman from Defra’s Animal Health executive said inquiries were still ongoing.