The United States Secret Service, acting on a tip from a concerned citizen, rescued the bound victim of an intended slaying Tuesday from the trunk of a car parked in Northwest Washington.
Rescued by Officer Arnold Schwartz was a 35-pound lamb, named "Tammy" by workers at the Washington Humane Society where the four-month-old female is recuperating from heat prostration and what one Humane Society worker called "mental anguish."
Two other sheep, also found in the trunk, died as a result of the ride from Manassas, Va., where they were purchased by a Palestinian family now living in Falls Church.
"I can probably say with certainty that this is the first time the Secret Service has ever been involved in the rescue of a lamb," said Secret Service spokesman Mel Jackson.
The owner of the sheep, Ata Jadallah, was charged by police with cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor in the District, punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and/or a fine of $250.
"Something terrible happened here," said Duncan Bright, the Humane Society's cruelty investigator. "Being bound and thrown into the back of a trunk and carted for an hour into downtown D.C. You can imagine the trauma and mental anguish!"
Bright, who said he has never investigated a case involving sheep before, postulated yesterday that the sheep may have been intended "for some type of Arabic ritual slaughter, but I don't know much about it."
The owner's wife had a simpler explanation: "We bought it to eat it."
Contacted at her home in Falls Church, Mrs. Jadallah said the sheep were purchased for a feast to celebrate the end of Ramadan last week, a month of fasting prescribed by the Koran and the most important holy time in the Islamic year.
The captive sheep were discovered by Officer Schwartz on his way to work as a guard at one of Washington's embassies.
As he left the Secret Service's Uniformed Division headquarters at 1310 L Street NW, he said, he was approached by a passerby who had heard thumping sounds coming from the trunk of a car parked in an alley half a block away.
Schwartz told a Humane Society worker he went to the car, listened and thought there was a person inside.
"He said the noise sounded like somebody was hollering 'mama'," said Walter Barringer, an Animal Rescue League driver who responded to the distress call.
Jadallah then returned and opened the trunk for the officer, Barringer said. The male sheep was already dead. A female was taken to nearby veterinary hospital where she died yesterday morning. But Tammy was alive and hungry.
The misdemeanor charge against Jadallah, who has been in the United States four years, is scheduled to be heard Sept. 18.
Meanwhile, Humane Society investigators in Northern Virginia are trying to determine where in Manassas the sheep were purchased and whether or not a law has been violated.
"If a person willfully sold the sheep for sacrificial purposes . . . or helped put them in the trunk of the car, then there is a clear violation of Virginia law," said Bettijane Mackall, the Humane Officer for most of Northern Virginia.
Mackall cited a section of Virginia law which states that any person who carries or causes to be carried in a vehicle an animal "so as to produce torture or unnecessary suffering," would be guilty of a crime.
Whether or not the courts in the District of Columbia will agree with Mackall is not altogether certain.
But while lawyers debate where the barnyard ends and the butcher shop begins, the Washington Humane Society is looking for a new home for Tammy. This one, said the Humane's shelter manager Ellie White, will be inspected first.
"It's a lamb that's been through enough," she said. "We want to make sure it goes where it will be happy."