Case Snapshot
Case ID: 12880
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: horse
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Monday, May 7, 2007

County: Larimer

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Convicted

Defendant/Suspect: Alesha Matchett

Case Updates: 9 update(s) available

A former Larimer Humane Society animal control officer said she saw duct tape wrapped around wounds and that one horse smelled like death from an untreated wound at Animal Angels Horse Rescue near Wellington.

Summer Lyndsey, who resigned as animal control officer in October, said she and current officer Jessie Pollachek began making regular visits to Alesha Matchett, the owner of the shelter, in May after receiving complaints from several different people.

"The horse (Rory, a palomino) literally smelled like death from a couple feet away,'' Lyndsey said. "The owner had a habit of duct-taping lacerations, and we'd ask her to remove it because that's not an accepted method of wound care. She did her own vet care, but she didn't know how to properly treat the animals.''

Lyndsey said the two officers tried to work with Matchett and that Matchett seemed to have good intentions. However, Lyndsey said that there were too many animals and not enough help to meet the basic needs of the animals.

"I said to Jessie that she reminds me of a cat hoarder but that she was doing it with horses,'' said Lyndsey, who estimated 32 to 38 horses were at the shelter. "On several occasions, we asked if she had any new animals, and she'd lie to us and say she didn't, but we'd see six new horses out in the pasture.''

Lyndsey said that no matter what time of the day the officers went to the rescue, they never saw any food. She said other issues included horses in need of shoeing and teeth needing filing to help them eat, and severe lice infestations.

"You name, it was out there,'' Lyndsey said.

Local veterinarian Richard Wheeler accompanied the officers to the rescue, according to Lyndsey.

Cary Rentola, spokeswoman for the Larimer Humane Society, said the society can respond to reports about neglect to livestock but has no legal right to seize livestock. Seizure can be done by the county sheriff's office or the state.

"We certainly see animal welfare cases in the county, but this is the largest case we've seen,'' Rentola said.


Case Updates

A Wellington woman who pleaded guilty last year to animal cruelty after authorities seized 27 animals from her property was arrested Sunday for DUI and eluding police officers.

Alesha Matchett, 44, who accepted a plea agreement offered by prosecutors to serve 200 hours of community service and serve four years through probation, is facing charges for DUI, DUI driving under restraint, eluding a police officer and disobeying a lane usage sign.

She was arrested Sunday and is scheduled to be advised of her rights and the charges against her through a video hearing at 1:30 p.m. today. Her bond is also likely to be set at that time.

This is her second DUI arrest in the last two years. She has pleaded not guilty to
DUI after being arrested in May 2008, about five months after her property was raided and she was originally charged with 20 counts related to inadequate car of animals at her rescue, Animal Angels Horse Rescue Shelter.

Sunday's arrest is a violation of her plea agreement and it's possible she'll face additional charges.

Larimer County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Eloise Campanella said Matchett did not "readilly" stop for a deputy who tried to pull her over for a traffic violation and was eventually arrested for DUI.

Campanella could not provide any details about Matchett's blood alcohol content level.

Matchett had more than 70 animals on her property in December 2007 when the Larimer County Sheriff's Office raided her property and seized 27 animals. The investigation into Matchett and the horse rescue was launched after the Sheriff's Office received numerous complaints about malnourished animals.

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said in 2007 after the animals were seized from Matchett's property there were just too many animals for her to properly care for.

"With the number of animals on this property," Alderden said in Dec. 2007. "It's a huge financial expense. In my be-lief, this wasn't any intentional act of cruelty."
Source: Coloradoan - July 27, 2009
Update posted on Jul 29, 2009 - 1:41AM 
Alesha Matchett, who pleaded guilty to animal cruelty, was sentenced today to 200 hours of community service. She'll serve 50 hours a year during her four-year probationary period.

Matchett pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty in August in connection with charges related to her animal rescue. Under the plea agreement, she will still be able to care for at least 10 animals.

Larimer County sheriff's investigators said animals were malnourished and improperly cared for following a raid of Matchett's property in December.

Instead of going to trial, Matchett entered the guilty plea and agreed on Aug. 8 to four years supervised probation and a mental health evaluation. She also will be ordered to comply with any recommendations from the evaluation.
Source: The Coloradoan - Oct 1, 2008
Update posted on Oct 1, 2008 - 5:39PM 
Dozens of animals formerly under the care of controversial animal rescue owner Alesha Matchett have been given up for adoption, and some have recovered back to full health.

One horse named Jeselle died of colic in December, shortly after being taken to Colorado Horse Rescue in Longmont. A veterinarian said the conditions at Matchett's rescue might have contributed to the horse's death.

Matchett pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty on Aug. 8, after having her property raided three times by the Larimer County Sheriff's Office from December through February.

Originally charged with four counts of animal cruelty covering 22 horses, seven goats, seven llamas, a pig and a sheep, Matchett accepted a plea agreement and likely will be sentenced to community service on Oct. 1.

She also has agreed to four years of probation and mental health evaluations. Under the agreement, she will be allowed to have animals.

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said more than 20 animals seized from Matchett were given up for adoption through his office and several other animals were adopted through the Humane Society. Matchett also gave up about six horses for adoption.

As for Jeselle, veterinarian Stacy Bluhm treated her and said malnutrition and the presence of an inordinate amount of parasites might have contributed to her death.

"I don't know that the lack of food contributed as much, but she had a huge parasite load, and that could have contributed," Bluhm said. "Normally, if you de-worm horses on a regular basis, that doesn't happen, but that could have played a part."

Jeselle was taken to Colorado Horse Rescue with Cheyenne, who is the horse connected to Matchett's guilty plea, and another horse named Ginger, to be rehabilitated. Bluhm said Jeselle was actually the healthiest of the three horses when they arrived.

Veterinarians use a scale of 1 through 9 to rate the health of horses, with one being low. Bluhm said Cheyenne and Ginger had a rating of 1 and Giselle was closer to a 3.

“Those two were the worst that I've ever seen,” Bluhm said. “I'm a little bit surprised they were able to recover without any problems and how quickly they recovered. They recovered in four months' time.”

Colorado Horse Rescue Executive Director Hildy Armour said both Cheyenne and Ginger gained back about a third of their body weight.

“Bottom line is they're doing well, they're very happy and we hope we can put them up for adoption,” Armour said. “Cheyenne's a little shy, where as Ginger is totally friendly.”

Armour said both horses are available for adoption and applications can be obtained at chr.org. She also said Colorado Horse Rescue is hosting an adoption open house Sept. 7.

Sue Rodriguez-Pastor, a Nederland resident, adopted two horses from Matchett that she's renamed Daisy and Lily. She said Daisy's ribs, spine and hip bones could all be seen easily through her winter coat when she adopted her.

Rodriguez-Pastor said Daisy made a full recovery, but she said Lily has a nasal abscess that will likely never fully heal.

“(Lily) had a wound on her face that I discovered was a result of two abscessed teeth,” she said via e-mail. “They were so infected that the abscess broke through the top of her face through her nasal cavity.”

Another horse, now named Spirit, was adopted from Matchett by Roland Jahiel of Brighton. He said the horse was in pitiful condition when he arrived and is back to about 90 percent health.

All the horses' new owners said riding them is still months away and will take plenty of training hours but is still an attainable goal.
Source: The Coloradoan - Aug 25, 2008
Update posted on Aug 25, 2008 - 6:07PM 
Alesha Matchett, the woman accused of starving 16 horses at the Colorado animal rescue she once operated, has plead guilty to one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty under a plea agreement entered in Larimer County District court last week.

According to Linda Jensen, public information officer for the court, Matchett will undergo psychiatric counseling and will serve four years of probation, during which time she will be limited to keeping only 10 animals on her property.

"Local animal welfare authorities will conduct monthly site visits to make sure the animals are being taken care of," Jensen said.

Matchett was charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty on Dec. 29, 2007, after Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden ordered the removal of 27 animals, including 16 emaciated or malnourished horses, from the Animal Angels Horse Rescue, operated by Matchett.

She had rejected a similar plea deal last April, but accepted the agreement in advance of her trial, which was slated for Aug. 13.

Details concerning community service and restitution for the animals' care will be decided during sentencing proceedings, which Jensen said are scheduled to take place Oct. 1.
Source: The Horse Magazine - Aug 18, 2008
Update posted on Aug 18, 2008 - 9:08PM 
The owner of a Wellington-based animal rescue who is accused of animal cruelty and neglect following raids by sheriff's deputies and veterinarians pleaded not guilty to all charges Tuesday.

Animal Angels owner Alesha Matchett spoke only to confirm her plea to Judge Edward Stirman, who set a four-day trial in August.

Matchett faces four charges of animal cruelty, covering 22 horses, seven goats, seven llamas, a pig and a sheep. Sheriff's investigators say the animals were malnourished and improperly cared for.

Matchett said she had rescued at least some of the animals from slaughterhouses and that their conditions were improving under her care.

On Tuesday, Matchett's attorney said his client would likely take the stand in her own defense.

"I expect that she'll want to testify," attorney David Johnson told Stirman.

Johnson said the trial will likely be lengthy because there are so many animals named in the charges and expert testimony will be necessary to identify them and judge their conditions.

He said it also may take longer than usual to seat a jury, given the extensive media coverage of Matchett's case.

Stirman said that because of time limitations on his schedule, a visiting judge will likely have to be called in to handle the trial, set to begin Aug. 18.

Prosecutor Shaun Reinhart indicated that he, Johnson and Matchett had tried but failed to reach a plea agreement in the case.

"All previous deals are off the table," he told Stirman.
Source: The Coloradoan - April 23, 2008
Update posted on Apr 23, 2008 - 11:35AM 
The Larimer County Sheriff's Office and veterinarians from Colorado State University and the Larimer Humane Society executed a search warrant Monday at a horse rescue where animals have been seized before.

They searched Animal Angels Horse Rescue in Wellington around 10 a.m. While they were there, they seized a calf, a sheep and three goats. The animals are now being housed at the Larimer Humane Society.

According to the sheriff's office, the rescue owner, Alesha Matchett, has 10 days to post bond for the care and feeding of the animals or they will be sent to foster locations. The bond was set at $1,500.

Charges of cruelty to animals are pending against Matchett, according to deputies.

All the 27 animals previously seized from the rescue have all been adopted out to new homes.

Matchett has been charged with four counts of animal abuse in connection with the pervious seizures, but might face additional charges pending further investigation.
Source: 9News - Feb 25, 2008
Update posted on Feb 25, 2008 - 6:46PM 
Claiming she was deprived of "her rights to liberty, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure," among other claims, the owner of a horse rescue operation has filed suit against the Larimer County Sheriff's Office and the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Alesha Matchett has been charged with four misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty stemming from the conditions of several animals that sheriff's workers seized from her farm outside Wellington on Dec. 29.

The civil suit, filed in court Jan. 8, claims the way the sheriff's department seized the animals was unlawful and that the plan to adopt the animals out to homes "not approved" by Matchett violates her rights.

It also says that the defendants "engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct" and that they "did so recklessly or with the intent of causing (Matchett) severe emotional distress."

The suit claims Matchett's damages are the direct result of those violations.

Matchett asks for damages, the amount to be determined at trial, plus reimbursement of
her attorneys' fees and other costs.

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden and sheriff's investigator Rita Servin are the only names specifically mentioned as defendants in the suit.

The suit also claims the defendants defamed Matchett, making statements that they knew were false when they made them.

The suit does not specify what those statements were.

In court on Tuesday during a hearing regarding Matchett's misdemeanor criminal case, Matchett's defense attorney, David Johnson, said although the suit had been filed with the court, the defendants involved had not been officially notified of the suit.

Calls to Jennifer Thomaidis, Matchett's counsel in the civil case, were not returned Thursday.

A judge on Tuesday ordered Matchett to pay a $5,000 bond and hand over $2,250 in money raised by adoptions for some of the animals in the sheriff's custody.

That money will go toward the sheriff's costs for caring for the seized animals.

Matchett already had posted a $9,700 bond Jan. 9 to pay for the animals' care.

The civil case is due in court at the end of March.
Source: Reporter Herald - Feb 1, 2008
Update posted on Feb 1, 2008 - 1:41PM 
The founder of a horse rescue operation in Larimer County who is facing animal cruelty charges turned herself in to authorities on Friday.

Alesha Machett, of Wellington, posted a $3,000 bond to keep herself out of jail after a Friday court hearing in which a judge rejected her request to have the $10,000 bond she has been ordered to pay lowered.

The bond money goes towards the care of the dozens of animals who were seized from Machett's operation, Animal Angels Horse Rescue, after allegations surfaced that the animals were being underfed. The animals have been housed since late last month at the Larimer County Fairgrounds and have been tended to by the sheriff's department.

Sheriff's investigators on Dec. 29 took seized 16 horses, ponies and donkeys, five llamas, five pygmy goats and one potbellied pig from Animal Angels. On Friday they seized several additional animals after reevaluating the conditions on the property.

Machett faces 12 counts of cruelty to animals. An arrest warrant was issued for her on Friday, but the district attorney is reviewing the case and hasn't yet filed formal charges. More charges may result from Friday's new animal seizure. On each of the misdemeanor counts she faces 6 to 18 months in jail and a fine of $500 to $5,000.

A veterinarian and vet students from Colorado State University worked on the animals on Friday, getting them ready to go into foster care. They spent a lot of time on dental care and trimming the horses' hooves.

"Right now we're really trying to make sure we have medical issues controlled (and) contained, things that we hadn't addressed very much like the little sore on one horse's nose ... we're trying to address all those issues and make sure their feet are in good shape," veterinarian Bruce Connelly said.

The department's plan is for all of the animals that were seized at the earlier date to be in foster homes by Saturday night.

"We're setting up a feeding recommendation so that the foster homes can take these (horses) and know what to do with them."

Machett had asked a judge to keep the horses out of foster care, but the judge did not rule on that request on Friday, so the sheriff is going ahead with his plans.

Machett said her animals should never have been seized and were well-cared for.
Source: CBS 4 Denver - Jan 11, 2008
Update posted on Jan 13, 2008 - 11:45AM 
The owner of the horse rescue shelter who lost 27 animals when they were seized by the Larimer County Sheriff's Department said she and her supporters are trying to raise the $10,000 bond it will take to get her animals back.

Alesha Matchett, owner of Animal Angels Horse Rescue Shelter in Wellington, has 10 days to raise the bond money to regain ownership of the horses, goats, llamas and other animals that are now being housed at The Ranch and the Larimer County Humane Society.

"I have paid $15,000 for all those animals to begin with. I shouldn't have to pay more to get them back."

County officials seized the animals Saturday after the Sheriff's Office received complaints of animal abuse and neglect.

Matchett faces up to 20 misdemeanor charges after an investigation concluded the animals received inadequate care.

"I have never even received a citation for animal abuse," she said.

Matchett still has approximately four dozen animals at the rescue, but they too can be seized if they look inadequately cared for. The Sheriff's Office will conduct another investigation in two weeks, said sheriff's spokeswoman Kathy Messick.

If Matchett cannot raise the bond money for the animals in the county's custody, all animals will become the property of the Sheriff's Office and may be turned over to the humane society, said Cary Rentola, spokeswoman for the Larimer Humane Society.

"We do routinely care for farm animals such as goats or smaller," Rentola said. "We would continue to care for those animals until we feel they are ready for adoption."

Approximately 20 animals are at The Ranch, and the rest are at the humane society.

Bob Herrfeldt, director of The Ranch, said the animals can stay there "as long as they need."

Matchett said she is worried about losing the animals, because of who may adopt them.

"Anybody can show up and purchase these animals," she said of organizations like the humane society.

Rentola said the humane society only adopts out animals if they feel the animal is ready and if the person meets certain requirements.

Matchett, who also adopts the animals out at her rescue, said she goes through a stringent adoption process allowing people to take the animals but never releasing the papers of ownership to them.

"I keep the brand inspection," she said. "If any time they cannot take care of their horse, all they have to do is call my rescue."

Beth Koschel of Loveland was happy to see the animals seized.

Koschel said she gave two of her horses to Matchett when she lost her job and could no longer care for them.

About a year later, a volunteer at Matchett's rescue told her that her 27-year-old mare, Swinger, was very skinny, Koschel said. "The mare was a skeleton with skin over her body," Koschel said.

After some dilemma with the ownership rights, Koschel got her horses back and said they are now in good health.

Matchett said the mare was skinny when she got her and a veterinarian examination showed the horse had a heart condition.

"It was hard to keep weight on her," Matchett said.

In fact, Matchett called many of the accusations against her "ridiculous."

She said she has always cared for the animals providing shelter in a 10,000 square-foot barn, veterinary care, and plenty of food and water.

Animals that may have been underweight were in that condition when they came in or suffered from parasites that required medication, Matchett said.

"That's the thing about this rescue, it's a work in progress," Matchett said.
Source: Coloradoan - Dec 31, 2007
Update posted on Jan 2, 2008 - 5:27PM 

References

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