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Niagara County farmers concerned about livestock after recent trespassing incidents

The Niagara County Sheriff is reiterating to the public that it's against the law to go on someone's property and says stealing livestock will result in charges.

NEWFANE, N.Y. — Niagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti on Tuesday warned farmers in the county to be aware of potential trespassers on their property

This warning came after two farms reported trespassing incidents over the weekend. 

"I want people to know a crime hasn't been committed yet," Filicetti said. 

The sheriff issued the warning after the trespassing incidents, which also occurred after an alleged meeting of animal rights activists in Tonawanda on Saturday. 

While it's not illegal for anyone to hold a meeting, the topic of the meeting concerned Sheriff Filicetti, particularly after there were reported trespassing incidents the very next day. 

"It was basically a rescue meeting," Filicetti said. "To go through recruiting of people to do research on farms, to rescue animals, the stages of rescuing animals and winning at trial."

Two of the panelists at the meeting were Tracy Murphy and Wayne Hsiung. 

Murphy owns and operates Asha's Animal Sanctuary in Newfane. In 2022 she was arrested after allegedly refusing to return cows that had wandered onto her property. The case is still working its way through the court. 

Hsuing is one of the co-founders of The Simple Heart Initiative.

2 On Your Side reached out to Hsuing for this story. We received a response on Saturday evening.

"Tracy Murphy cares deeply about having compassion for sick, injured, and stray animals. Taking in a baby cow who was born without working eyes. Giving emergency care to an animal who's lost the ability to walk. That was what she discussed at the open forum last weekend. The fact that the Niagara County Sheriff is concerned about this, rather than the threats of violence against Tracy incited by the Sheriff's own Facebook posts, is a demonstration of the misplaced priorities of local law enforcement.

"This is a case of defamation, and there is no evidence that my client advocated for anything unlawful. She advocated for compassion."

One of the trespassing incidents happened at Strobel Farms in Newfane. 

"When I found out that two different farms had had contact with unknown individuals, in one instance, went on to his property were videotaping, photographing, instantly that set off alarms with me," Filicetti said. "Now we didn't just have a meeting, now we actually have people that are going out and doing this."

A spokesperson for the Niagara County Sheriff's Office says they don't believe, nor insinuate that Murphy was involved in the trespassing incidents

Paul Strobel has been farming in Newfane since 1986. 

"We raise black natural Black Angus beef we raise heritage hogs, we do some eggs, some vegetables and you know crops for the for the livestock," Stobel said. 

The farm operates a roadside stand at the farm where they sell their harvest and products from nearby farms. 

He woke up on Sunday morning and while drinking coffee saw several people on his property, filming video of his livestock and barn with their cell phones. 

"My store doesn't open until 10 o'clock, so no one should be here at 7:30," Strobel said. "They saw me and hopped in their car and took off."

Sheriff Filicetti says another trespassing incident occurred at a different farm in the county on Sunday as well. 

"I don't want confrontations," Sheriff Filicetti said. "There's been some on the on the animal activist side that say I've incited a lynch mob or violence. That is exactly the opposite of what I've done. I've put it out here because I don't want confrontations."

Filicetti also says that there are already mechanisms in place if you suspect animal abuse. 

"If you call the sheriff's office and say we think that these animals are being mistreated or abused at a certain location, we will absolutely send a car out there," Filicetti said. "We will use our partners at the SPCA to help investigate that."

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