State

No felony charges in Oakdale cattle cruelty case

An Oakdale rancher will not face felony charges of animal cruelty on accusations of abusing his herd of cattle, the district attorney's office said Wednesday.

Prosecutors dropped the five felony counts against Mark Allen Ozbirn, 49, whom authorities said subjected his cattle to "needless suffering and unnecessary cruelty" in May and June 2008. His case could be dismissed completely if Ozbirn doesn't rack up any new charges.

The herd, and three dead cattle, were found June 5, 2008, on a ranch in the 4400 block of Kentucky Avenue in Riverbank. There was no food on the property, Stanislaus County detectives said, and the land was not fit for grazing.

Ozbirn pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty. If no other charges are filed against him by his June 4 sentencing date, the case will be dismissed, said Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley.

She said the felony charges were dropped because it was difficult to prove an intentional act by Ozbirn.

Under the plea deal, Ozbirn is required to pay restitution to local agencies who came to assist the animals, Shipley said. His animals have been auctioned off, she said.

The five felony counts included allegations that Ozbirn abused two calves at the Farmer's Livestock Auction Yard and a black Angus cow by failing to give them proper food, drink and shelter.

Ozbirn faced two felony counts of abusing an animal in connection with deceased calves, one that was a month old and one that was found in a pasture, according to the criminal complaint.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at mbalassone@modbee.com or 578-2337.

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