Psychiatrist Shoots 7 Helpless Cows for Standing in His Driveway

If you’re a cow in La Grande, Oregon, you’d be well advised to say off Dr. Joel Rice’s property.

Local officials arrested the 57-year-old psychiatrist on Aug 29th and charged him with seven counts of aggravated animal abuse and first-degree criminal mischief. Why? Well, pull up a chair.

According to press reports, Dr. Rice arrived at his home on August 15th to find a number of cattle blocking his driveway.

“He was pretty upset about that,” Capt. Craig Ward, of the Union County Sheriff’s Office, told the La Grande Observer. Indeed he was. This was apparently another in a series of events in which livestock found its way onto the Rice property.

This time, Dr. Rice became so upset, reports have it, that he took a rifle and shot seven cows. Six of them died. Their bodies were found on Dr. Rice’s property.

In La Grande, loose cattle wandering around have been a recurring problem. It’s an area that used to be open range. Dr. Rice reportedly spearheaded the creation of a “livestock district” in La Grande because of the free roaming animal problem.

Whats a Livestock District?

In Oregon, what homeowners legally may do when they find livestock running loose on their property depends on whether the property is “open range” or a “livestock district.”

In an open range area “livestock may lawfully be permitted to run at large.” People living in an open range area are therefore responsible for protecting their own property. If they want to keep these animals out, they must “build adequate fences or have natural barriers to keep livestock out.”

Oregon law defines a livestock district as “an area where livestock may not run at large: the livestock owner or manager must keep livestock on his or her own property.” When an animal is found at large, those who live in a livestock district are supposed to contact the animal’s owner.

Owners are responsible for keeping their livestock on their own property. If they fail to do so and loose animals become a problem, state law provides a civil and criminal remedy. Neither of these remedies involves summary execution, needless to say.

When livestock are roaming where they shouldn’t be, Capt. Ward told the La Grande Observer, “There is a remedy for that. When animals are loose, the sheriff’s office and Department of Agriculture go out and investigate. Generally [livestock owners] are pretty good about getting their animals back home.”

Why Take it Out on the Cows?

Clearly, this was an act by an angry homeowner who’d apparently had enough. One can, of course, imagine the damage a lot of cattle can do if left to their own devices on private property. The cow patties needing to be picked up and disposed of were undoubtedly the least of it.

Loose livestock probably damaged a myriad of things on the Rice property over time. It’s entirely understandable that someone would eventually become very angry at those who failed to follow the law and control their livestock.

When it comes right down to it, though – if these charges are true, why take it out on innocent cows? Why kill them? That’s a rather stunning overreaction. It’s even more surprising coming from a mental health professional who should have the tools to better channel those angry impulses.

It’s disturbing to imagine, from beginning to end, how the entire event must roughly have played out. Assuming the rifle wasn’t already in the car, the shooter presumably would have to go get it, come back, and then aim at and shoot down seven cows, one by one.

This whole episode seems very much at odds with the public information known about Dr. Rice. On the Blue Mountains Conservancy website, he’s described as a “passionate conservationist” who is “committed to protecting farmland, timberland and wildlife habitat from development.”

Clearly, La Grande needs to get a much better handle on enforcement of its livestock policies, while aggrieved landowners should follow established procedures when they need help. It’s a crazy world out there and the animals are defenseless against the madness. They don’t need to end up in harm’s way because of disagreements between ranchers and homeowners.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

very sad news about the cows but thanks for sharing

Gita Sasi Dharan
Gita Sasi Dharan4 years ago

He needs treatment and then punishment, for his cruel action.

Maureen Heartwood

Maybe one of his colleagues will give him a discount on some much-needed therapy.

Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright4 years ago

Sad and stupid......the psychiatrist sounds like he needs to see one. WTH is wrong with some people?

See Rebeca G's post...............agree with you 100%.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers4 years ago

I'd like to know what the sentencing might be for seven counts of aggravated animal abuse and first-degree criminal mischief. God, I so hope that it's more than a slap on the wrist. Hopefully, he'll get a lot of negative press over this. It's good to know that someone who should be able to keep a cool head in such a "crisis" situation would, instead, react with lethal behavior. I hope that his profession would work against him if this case goes to court. I don't recall what weapon he used but was he absolutely certain that he wouldn't shoot a person? If not, why wasn't he charged with reckless use of a firearm? This ass was not in danger so why didn't he just use his cell to contact authorities? People such as Rice make me sick.

Suzan F.
Suzan F4 years ago

"Dr." Joel Rice. People in Oregon, remember that name. Some psychiatrist. I wouldn't send my dog to see this a**hole. Sounds like he needs a psychiatrist...or maybe a little of what he gave those poor cows.

John G.
John G.4 years ago

The article leads the reader to believe this was some thoughtless action by the cattlemen and that Mr. Rice (I'm not going to give him the credit of Dr.) was some how justified to do this, because you know, it's understandable with all the cow patties and all. So, here's the rest of the story. Bicyclers from the area had been riding through the area and tore a hole in the fence, TO GET ONTO Mr. Rice's property nearly sounds like a set up deal if you understand the people Mr. Rice associates with and their feelings on cattle, those being Western Watershed's and Hells Canyon Preservation Council, two of the most anti-cattle, "preservationist" groups you'll ever find.

Also, if none of you have had an opportunity to read Mr. Rices' "apology" let me share that with you too, . What he does in the opening paragraph is set the stage for a defense of what he did, not an apology. He was "protecting a sensitive riparian area" as if someones like was in danger. He "dispatched them with the same care as a game animal" I've hunted in these mountains around La Grande all my life, no one, and I mean no one gut shoots an animal, game or anything with "care" and the reason the animals went to water is that's what they do when they start running a fever and are getting ready to die, they get hot and move to where they think they

Dale O.

Scott h, I have dealt with cattle so I won't hold my keyboard. Having found 20 of them in my garden one dark foggy evening, rest assured I did not go and borrow a gun from somewhere and blast my neighbour's wandering cows just because they were having yet another convention in the garden and stomped on eggplants. Guess I could have added the squashed eggplants to vegetarian Moo-ssaka.

Of course the idiot didn't even attempt to fire into the air first to scare them, he shot them. I wouldn't even shoot into the air. He could driven to where the owners live and asked them to bring home their cattle. I've had people's horses and other animals in my lane way as well. True William E, he should be struck off as he struck out especially in both the brains and Anger Management department.

Agreed, Lyn S. This psychiatrist belongs in a cuckoo's nest but the smart bird would boot him out before he could shoot it as well.

Lyn Smith
Lynelle Romaine4 years ago

For sure he is a piss poor Psychiatrist who doesn't need to be dealing with people. They'll be as messed up as he is! How can anyone just shoot defenseless cows and not feel bad? You have to not have a heart! Don't let a human make him mad!!!