‘Malicious Act': Fences Cut at Sanctuary Cause 16 Animals to Roam Free

An animal sanctuary in Alpine had its fences cut, causing many of its animals to run loose Sunday, according to the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.

The Children’s Nature Retreat Foundation reported that three of their fences were cut by two alleged trespassers in a “malicious act.”

The compromised fences caused zebras, sheep, donkeys, zebus, and Ankole-Watusi to roam around the retreat, said Agnes Barrelet, director of the foundation.

In total, 16 animals were out of their enclosures.

The fences were cut with a “heavy-duty tool” and “rolled back to allow the animals to escape,” the sanctuary said in released statement.

Barrelet and her team first discovered the broken fences Sunday at 7:30 a.m. She said they were fortunate the animals didn’t discover a hole in the retreat’s outer fencing and escape.

The animals suffered minor cuts and scrapes during the incident but they, fortunately, did not sustain major injuries, according to Barrelet.

The foundation has two mountain dogs that, according to the director, were meant to keep any dangerous animals from getting into the sanctuary.

“I didn’t know I had to protect myself from people,” she said.

SDSO was called at 11 a.m. Sunday and responded to the scene shortly after.

“All animals impacted were quickly and safety (sic) put into different enclosures,” SDSO told NBC 7 over email.

Though, “it wasn’t easy,” Barrelet said. Crews separated the freed animals and took them back into their enclosures one at a time.

Ankole-Watusi, seen below, are a breed of cattle with extremely large horns. They proved to be “the more difficult” ones to wrangle, Barrelet said.

Children's Nature Retreat Foundation

The holes were temporarily covered by additional fencing until the sanctuary can replace the compromised sections. Though, the cost of new fencing wasn’t Barrelet’s biggest concern.

“It’s going to be man hours -- more like the loss of business -- that’s going to get us,” Barrelet said.

The sanctuary will close while it works on its repairs and security improvements. Barrelet said she hopes the foundation will reopen in time for a tour scheduled on March 13.

Until then, the retreat is asking for donations to help with these upgrades, which can be made on its website.

The 20-acre animal farm is located on Japatul Spur, a street just off Japatul Road.

The foundation is home to more than 120 animals of 17 different species and 45 breeds, located in different enclosures like Big Farm, Mini Farm, Africa, Camel Oasis, Barnyard Alley, and Tortoises.

“Many of our animals have been acquired from owners who could no longer keep or care for them, while some have been rescued from harsh living conditions,” the retreat’s website said.

The farm opened to the public in February 2017, according to its Facebook page.

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