Baltimore County Police said they were called to Braglio Farms on April 22 around 10 a.m. after the owners discovered the calf, which they said was a pet, was missing.
The owners of the farm had license plate information for Sully and Wilkinson, who were trespassing at the farm two days prior, police said.
Police began investigating and said they found that the women had posted photos of the stolen calf and tagged themselves in photos connected to “Life with Pigs,” which identifies itself as a private, nonprofit animal sanctuary near Williamsburg, Virginia.
Baltimore County police went to the sanctuary with officers from James City County Police with a search and seizure warrant for the stolen calf. Police said they found the calf, which the animal sanctuary had named “Sophie.” She was subsequently returned to her owners in Baltimore County, police said.
In a written statement, Braglio Farms said the calf was being raised as a show cattle, not for beef, and said she has been “thriving” since being returned to Baltimore County.
The Baltimore County Police Animal Abuse Team and Baltimore County Animal Services investigated allegations of animal abuse against Braglio Farms stemming from the theft investigation, and found no evidence of abuse or neglect, police spokesman Jennifer Peach said.
Peach said there have been no reports of animal cruelty or neglect at the farm since at least May 29, 2000, which is as far back as she searched at the request of a reporter.
Peach said Sully and Wilkinson did not handle the situation “the right way.”
“What they should have done, instead of stealing the cow, they should have contacted the Baltimore County Police Department, they should have made a complaint. Then we would have been able to go out there at that time,” and investigate, Peach said.
She said it was not unusual for Baltimore County Police to travel to other jurisdictions — including across state lines — for investigations or serving warrants.
While authorities continue to investigate the circumstances of the theft, activists and others on social media have created a petition calling on Baltimore County to remand the calf back to Life with Pigs in Virginia.
Ryan Phillips, owner of Life With Pigs sanctuary, said the calf appeared to have been neglected when it was brought to the Virginia location. Phillips shared photos he said documented the calf’s injuries on social media.
The Baltimore County animal abuse investigator was not available, Peach said, and could not comment on the photos posted and shared by Life With Pigs. But she said because they are online photos, and not officers or investigators seeing the animals themselves, it is “a lot harder to say that’s evidence.”
In a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon, Life With Pigs said that it is “getting in touch with additional people and lawyers” to try and get the calf returned to the sanctuary. As of Thursday evening, the petition had garnered more than 46,000 signatures.