'No vet care, no food, no water': Animals seized from sanctuary in Cedarburg, charges filed

NOW: ’No vet care, no food, no water’: Animals seized from sanctuary in Cedarburg, charges filed

OZAUKEE COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) – Dozens of animals were recently seized from a farm animal sanctuary in Ozaukee County, and authorities tell CBS 58 the case is now a criminal investigation.

For months, the Ozaukee County Sheriff's Office has been investigating reports of animal neglect at Autumn Farm Sanctuary in Cedarburg.

Two charges were filed Monday for one of the owners, Holly Herbst - one misdemeanor for intentionally mistreating animals, and one for intentionally failing to provide water for animals.

CBS 58 visited Autumn Farm Sanctuary in 2019 as part of CBS 58 Sunday Morning, but former volunteers tell us five years later, it's now a very different scene.

Erin Hammock volunteered at Autumn Farm from 2015 until 2022. For years, she's noticed declining conditions.

Neglect at Autumn Farm Sanctuary: Facebook

"The last day I was there, I asked where food and bedding were- there was no clean bedding for the animals, no food- and this was in 2022," Hammock said. "I was met with a lot of defensiveness, complaining about how they have no money."

In November 2023, she and other former volunteers raised concern about neglect to authorities.

"Unsafe conditions, no vet care, no food, no water," Hammock explained.

Ozaukee County Sheriff's Office began investigating Autumn Farm in January.

They made an unannounced visit in February with a veterinarian from MADACC, who found evidence of neglect.

The owners were told then to rehome their cows and sheep.

Two cows were taken to Bucky's Bull Rescue, a sanctuary in Cedar Grove.

"Their environment was a very muddy pasture, didn't appear to have any food or grass or anything for them to eat," said Bucky's founder, Jenni Spinelli. "They didn't have the nice big round bellies that they have now. So, they needed consistent food and water, and you could tell they were stressed."

On April 22, the sheriff's office executed a search warrant at the farm. Hammock contacted several sanctuaries from Wisconsin and Illinois to take the remaining animals.

"They all came through, they all showed up with their trailers, they all showed up just ready, hands on deck to take these animals," Hammock said.

In total, nearly 50 animals were rehomed. Hammock said some had to be euthanized due to their health.

Neglect at Autumn Farm Sanctuary: Facebook

"They couldn't even provide the basics, but they were calling themselves a sanctuary," Hammock said. "Sanctuaries are above and beyond giving care to animals, and they were nothing, nothing like a sanctuary."

With one of the owners now facing charges, Hammock hopes the case sets a precedent that animal neglect won't be tolerated.

"I do think she needs to be held accountable," Hammock said Friday.

Now, former volunteers are staying connected with sanctuaries that saved the animals, like Bucky's Bull Rescue.

"I think they are happy that they landed in a safe place, so they can continue to have that relationship with them," Spinelli said. "Really, that's the best part of the story."

Since the investigation came to light, Autumn Farm has taken down all social media and their website.

Herbst is scheduled to appear in court May 13.

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