Suspected of neglecting, shooting aging burro

A well-known Mendocino County organic farmer and wine maker is facing trial on misdemeanor charges of animal neglect and cruelty.

Guinness McFadden severely neglected his aging burro, then shot it multiple times while attempting to put it out of its misery, according to a report by Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy Christian Denton.

McFadden, an outspoken Potter Valley rancher who specializes in organic winegrapes, herbs, rice and cattle, declined to comment on the charges filed by the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office.

According to the Sheriff's report, the burro had been neglected for years. Its hooves had been allowed to grow to more than a foot in length, causing them to spiral and bend at 90 degree angles, according to the report. The deformities forced the burro to walk on its fetlocks instead of its twisted hooves, photos of the animal show.

"The animal appeared to be in pain and had extreme trouble walking," Denton states in the report.

The burro also had an oozing, volley ball-sized tumor on its chest, according to the Sheriff's report.

McFadden had been aware of the hoof problem since at least June 2007, when Animal Control officials first warned him to have the burro's hooves trimmed, according to the Sheriff's report.

He was again warned in early 2009, when the burro's condition was reported to the Humane Society, according to Denton's report. McFadden claimed he had a farrier trim the hooves, but the overgrown hooves would have required multiple treatments.

The burro also apparently suffered from laminitis, a hoof inflammation usually brought on by eating carbohydrate rich grass or clover, said county Veterinarian Robert Shugart. Untreated, the inflammation can result in abnormal hoof growth as the animal shifts its weight to its heel to lessen the pain, he said. Hooves can become as long and twisted as those of McFadden's burro in about a year, Shugart said.

In the wild, burros don't have access to rich grass, and their hooves are naturally worn down by hard, rocky ground. Their hooves may get longer as they age and become less mobile, but predators are likely to cut short their suffering, according to county Animal Control and Bureau of Land Management officials.

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