updated 3/27/2007 8:51:44 PM ET 2007-03-28T00:51:44

About 30 sheep being kept at a suburban home were euthanized Tuesday after some of the flock were found grazing on floral arrangements in a cemetery, authorities said. Animal cruelty charges were pending against the owner.

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David Watts kept about 80 of the animals in his crumbling house in this Raleigh suburb, police said.

“He lives upstairs, and the sheep were living downstairs,” police Sgt. Robert Towell said. “He considered them pets.”

Lambs were apparently kept inside, while grown sheep were kept outside in debris-filled pens, Dr. Kelli Ferris, a veterinarian who examined the sheep. Workers found sheep eating plastic bags and artificial flowers from the cemetery. Skulls and carcasses were found in compost piles, she said.

“We’re always saddened when we see animals kept in this kind of state,” Ferris said. “It could have been prevented.”

About 30 sheep were euthanized because of poor health, said Michael Williams, director of the Wake County Animal Care, Control and Adoption Center.

Some had severe hoof rot, paralyzed limbs and prolapsed uteruses, in which a ewe’s reproductive organs hang outside the body after giving birth, Williams said.

Complaints from neighbors
Watts even walked some of the sheep around the neighborhood on a leash.

He has cooperated with investigators, said Police Chief Jack Lewis.

“A lot of times well-intentioned people get in over their head,” Lewis said.

The Associated Press could not locate contact information for Watts.

Neighbors have long complained about the sheep.

“All I want is to be able to sit on my front porch and not smell sheep poop,” said Angie Fowler, who lives across the street.

Mayor Keith Weatherly said the town council considered a proposal last year that would bar residents from keeping livestock, but it was never passed.

Up to 30 healthy sheep could be available for adoption, officials said.

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