The emaciated cows lacked food and water, some so underfed their rib cages protruded, deputies with the Lee County Sheriff's Office Agricultural Crimes Unit said.

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(News-Press) A chorus of moos echoed from a small pen in a pasture off Three Oaks extension north of Alico Road on Thursday as law enforcement officers herded 80 sickly cows and calves for removal.

The emaciated cows lacked food and water, some so underfed their rib cages protruded, deputies with the Lee County Sheriff's Office Agricultural Crimes Unit said. At least one bovine and several calves had died and one bull was near death, reports indicated.

Collier County Sheriff's Office assisted with the roundup.

Deputies arrested cattle owner Brian Freeman, 44, of Fort Myers, charging him with causing cruel death, pain and suffering to animals as well as confinement of animals without sufficient food or water.

It took cowboys and herding dogs more than two hours to corral the cows before later herding them onto a large trailer that would take them to the LCSO impound lot on Ortiz avenue. They will be treated by Van Roekel and Associates, a veterinarian clinic out of Alva, with whom the sheriff's office has contracted.

Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott, in a news release, called the matter deeply disturbing.

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"These innocent animals died a slow and unnecessary death," Scott said. "... we at the Sheriff's Office take animal neglect/abuse very seriously and will not tolerate it."

According to LCSO, they were contacted by a concerned citizen.

Deputies told the media there was one watering hole filled with mud. The field where the cows were located was sparse without much grass to graze on.

The animals that needed urgent care were taken care of earlier in the day, according to LCSO. Deputies had found one young bull on the brink of death that they gave fluid to right away.

According to Bill Ennen, the fields off of Alico Road include almost 500 acres. Ennen owns a portion and is selling about 42 acres.

"That's not our rancher by any means," Ennen said.

Lorie Peterson, who drove by the pasture earlier, said she noticed some of the cows were laying on their sides. Peterson did not make the call because authorities were already on the field investigating, she said.

"They were lying on their sides, and then I saw another one and another one," Peterson, of North Fort Myers, said. "There's no water anywhere."

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