A newborn lamb rescued from a river in Aberdeenshire has become the subject of a legal battle, after a farmer stepped forward to claim the 'pedigree' animal from the sanctuary that has looked after him, reports the BBC.
The lamb, now called River by the Willows Animal Sanctuary where he has been looked after, was found drowning by local schoolgirl Kirstie Finnie in a tributary of the River Dee near Banchory. Ms Finnie, 15, had then contacted Willows to ask if they could take care of the animal.
The sanctuary has looked after him ever since and has used him as part of an assisted therapy scheme for vulnerable adults, who they say have since formed a powerful bond with the animal.
Now farmer John McIrvine has come forward to claim ownership of the lamb, claiming that as a pedigree ram it has considerable value. He claims to have offered the Sanctuary a small donation for the animal, or an alternative lamb in its place.
Kate Robinson of the Willows Animal Sanctuary has said that she has appealed to the farmer's good nature, but that having been rebuffed the matter was now with their lawyers, adding that it was for Mr McIrvine to prove ownership.
"We were contacted and agreed to take him in good faith. We are hoping that with all the attention we are getting it might make him think twice and accept that this lamb - which could have died - has now come to a place where it is doing enormous good by helping vulnerable people," Ms Robinson told the BBC.
However, the farmer at the centre of the storm claims that the lamb is due to become a 'fairground attraction' and emphasised its value as a breeding ram.
"He's an incredible tup lamb and he's got so much breeding potential for me as a ram that his value could be quite high," Mr McIrvine told BBC Scotland.
"I've offered to give them another lamb or pay for him to get him back but no, they will not play ball. They're keeping the lamb and that's it - they've put it in the hands of their solicitors," he added.