30 alpacas have mysteriously died on a farm in the Town of Onondaga, owner is searching for answers

30 alpacas have mysteriously died on Tanner Z Farm

The owner of an alpaca farm in the Town of Onondaga wants answers about why her animals are dying.

Sheila Zych, the owner of Tanner Z Farm, has about 70 alpacas. She says that since last June about 30 have died.

Zych says at first she was looking at potential causes at the farm, but when she found an alpaca, named Smoky Mist, in her barn in February, she realized something was not right.

"When I looked down, I couldn't recognize who the animal was," says Zych. "She was so bloated, and I went to pull her over to see, and her fleece peeled off in my hands, which is very unusual."

Several of the animals, including Smoky Mist, were sent to Cornell University to be examined. The toxicology report showed the presence of two chemicals, phenol and cresol, which are commonly found in cleaning agents.

Zych says there is no way those chemicals were on her farm. She believes someone is doing this to her animals. She hopes she gets answers soon.

"It's very difficult to see these animals, and sometimes hold them, and look in their eyes as they're dying," says Zych. "I've done that with quite a few. It's a big emotional toll. They're not just a tax break. They're not just livestock. There's an emotional attachment."

The SPCA has launched an investigation. Executive Director Paul Morgan says animal cruelty investigators are looking into the deaths. He says right now, the investigators are conducting interviews and waiting for more results from Cornell University.

He says, if a person is responsible for this, he or she would only face misdemeanor charges. Under the law, alpacas are considered farm animals. Felony law only applies to companion animals.

If you have any information about the alpacas that have died, call the Central New York SPCA at (315) 454-3469.