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$15,000 reward offered for Felton turkey that went missing during CZU fires

kaley portrait (002)

FELTON, Calif. (KION)--In Santa Cruz County, there's a plea from the founder of a chicken and bird rescue, revolving around a missing turkey and a $15,000 reward for safe return.

The last time the bird was seen was when it was seized by animal control, and the owner fears the worst for a bird she vowed to care for.

Kaley the turkey came to the non-profit bird sanctuary "Hen Harbor” in Felton seven years ago. She was among hundreds of other birds roaming the grounds, but Kaley was special to founder Ariana Huemer.

"She was here forever, she was like the mainstay of the sanctuary."

However, things changed during the peak of the CZU lightning fires.

Huemer says she allowed people to leave evacuated animals on her property. But the number of animals being cared for by Huemer became a source of contention with neighboring residents.

"Those disagreements ended up being filed as complaints with Santa Cruz County animal shelter. So (they) got a warrant to search and seize animals at hen harbor based on these complaints," says Attorney Jerry Friedman.

The county ended up taking around 320 animals from the non-profit. But at the post seizure hearing, court documents show there was no probable cause for the animals to have been removed from Huemer’s care.

"So the hearing officer ordered the shelter to return all the animals they seized, all the property the seized and actually when the animals are seized the shelter is allowed to charge a daily rate for the care and maintenance of the animals and the hearing officer ordered that Ariana not be charged,” says Friedman.

When the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter began the return process, Huemer says she was given multiple birds that did not belong to her. And her turkey Kaley had been given to someone else. It's someone who Huemer claims is known for raising animals for meat.

"It’s the worst possible person they could have given her to,” says Huemer.

Now she is hoping a hefty reward will bring her beloved turkey back.

"I don’t think $15,000 is a lot. If it was someone’s dog, would everyone be freaking out over $15,000 dollars? If it was your kid would they be freaking out over $15,000? She’s priceless,” says Huemer.

“They know a lawsuit is coming, so we’re discussing so we’re discussing whether we’re going to settle before we file a lawsuit or not, so we’re at that stage,” says Friedman.

Huemer’s attorney says a settlement with the county is possible. Either way, they are moving forward...demanding accountability.

Calls and emails to the animal shelter and county officials have not yet been returned.

Santa Cruz / Santa Cruz County / Top Stories

Mary Coleman

Mary Coleman is a morning anchor and managing editor at KION News Channel 5/46.

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