Aretha the stranded sheep is shot dead after four weeks stuck up a cliff... because rescue is ruled 'too risky'
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 9:03 AM on 29th July 2009
The stray sheep which spent a month stranded on a cliff ledge has been shot dead after a rescue was ruled out as too dangerous.
The ewe was 'humanely' shot by marksmen on the instructions of her owner after discussions with the RSPCA, the animal charity said today.
The sheep - nicknamed Aretha by locals in honour of Aretha Franklin's soul classic Rescue Me - had strayed from nearby fields over the edge of the sheer 200ft cliff near Hawsker, near Whitby, North Yorkshire, but had amazingly landed safely on a precarious ledge.
Last days: Aretha the sheep is barely visible on the ledge of the tall cliff near Whitby, Yorkshire
She was first spotted by Juanita Degenaar, a crew member of a cruise company which runs trips across Whitby harbour, who described her as looking calm and regal 'like a queen looking over her kingdom.'
RSPCA staff had hoped to rescue Aretha using ropes but it was decided the operation would have put the sheep at 'high risk' of injury and a further fall - and would also be dangerous to those carrying out the rescue.
Using a tranquilliser was also ruled out over fears that the dazed sheep might stumble off the ledge.
Instead she was shot on Monday evening. Her carcass, which plunged into the sea and was brought to shore by two Coastguard volunteers, was returned to the farmer.
Today, an RSPCA spokeswoman said: 'The RSPCA is very sad that it wasn't possible to save the sheep and understands the public's concern.
Homecoming: The ewe's body is brought ashore by Coastguard crewmembers
'However, the action was taken with the animal's best interests at heart.'
Justin Le Masurier, an RSPCA chief inspector who went to the scene hoping to carry out the rescue, said: 'The RSPCA regularly rescues animals trapped on cliffs but unfortunately, as in this case, there isn't always a happy ending.
'In the interests of the sheep's welfare, it was decided that attempting a rope rescue down a 200ft cliff face would be far too dangerous for the animal and any rescuers.
'The sheep was humanely destroyed yesterday evening, as arranged by the owner. The procedure was carried out quickly and cleanly and the sheep would not have suffered.
'This is a very sad situation and we understand the public's concern. We wish to assure people that this difficult decision was taken in the very best interests of the animal involved.'