Case Snapshot
Case ID: 13720
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: horse
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Attorneys/Judges
Prosecutor(s): Robin Boylan


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For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.



Thursday, Apr 10, 2008

County: Augusta

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Convicted
Case Images: 1 files available

Defendant/Suspect: Terry Lynn Sullivan

Case Updates: 3 update(s) available

A decade-old case of animal cruelty is playing out again in Augusta County. The former director of an equine center in Staunton who had 19 horses taken away in the 1990's now has more horses in her care and faces a new animal cruelty charge.

We counted at least a dozen horses in the field and we saw someone driving around checking on them. But this new case comes down to one dead horse and its owner who is familiar with an arrest warrant for animal cruelty.

"You can see ribs, you can see hip bones," pointed out Brigette Berbes, who cared for one of the horses. "They're all underweight."

That's what Berbes sees when she looks out onto the field of horses on Shaner Lane Farm. But it's what she saw in the same field two weeks ago while riding her motorcycle on an interstate overpass that stopped her in her tracks.

"From the road, I called to her. She couldn't pick up her head," recalled Berbes.

Berbes says the thin 20-year-old mare was covered in a thick blanket on a hot, spring day. "She had obviously been there awhile. I'm just sorry i didn't see her sooner," saod Berbes.

Berbes called Augusta County Animal Control and contacted the horse's owner, Terry Lynn Sullivan. "She signed the horse over to me as long as she didn't have any financial responsibility," said Berbes.

Berbes called her vet, but that wasn't enough. The mare, who she named Harley, died the next morning. A preliminary report from a state lab classifies Harley's death as a possible case of starvation.

"Bottom line is these horses are not being cared for. This is a repeat offense," stated Berbes.

NBC29 video from 1996 shows the same Terry Lynn Sullivan operating a similarly named Fern Leigh Foundation. At that time, she was charged with depriving more than a dozen horses of proper food and care.

"It's like déjà vu all over again," remarked Pam Powell. Powell is Berbes' mother and she volunteers with the Augusta SPCA. Shehelped rescue the horses seized from Sullivan.

"They were all in the same condition. It was just, it was just heart-wrenching," shared Powell.

Sullivan was convicted on one animal cruelty charge and fined from that case. Powell says one more misdemeanor charge this time around isn't enough.

Powell says, "This is the second time around. And I don't know how many more have to die before someone will do something permanently."

Berbes watched the community come together to care for the horses a decade ago. Now, she's hoping that repeats itself to save another horse from Harley's fate.

"It's just bad. They need to be taken out of here. Somebody needs to do something," stressed Berbes.

Sullivan is scheduled to appear in court on that cruelty charge May 1. A county spokesman tells NBC29 that animal control will be out examining the rest of the horses and that the investigation continues.


Case Updates

A Staunton woman convicted of animal cruelty in a case involving the death of a horse will have her appeal heard this afternoon in Augusta County Circuit Court.

Terry L. Sullivan, 59, was sentenced in June to a year in jail on the cruelty charge and fined $2,500.

Authorities charged Sullivan in April after an anemic 20-year-old mare was found on her property on Shaner Lane. The horse died a day later.

Sullivan has remained free during the appeal process.

A necropsy report conducted by the Virginia Department of Agriculture said the horse was in poor body condition with eroded teeth, prominent ribs and hair loss. A veterinarian testified at Sullivan's trial that the horse died from food and water deprivation.

Court records show Sullivan appealed two charges of animal cruelty in 1998 but later was found guilty. In that case, she was ordered not to own or care for horses, although court records do not state how long the ban was in effect. Sullivan still has roughly 30 horses at her farm, all deemed to be in good health by the Virginia Department of Agriculture shortly after the death of her mare.
Source: News Leader - July 30, 2008
Update posted on Jul 30, 2008 - 2:51PM 
A Staunton woman charged with animal cruelty in the death of a horse received the stiffest penalty possible Tuesday - a year in jail and a $2,500 fine - but will remain free on bond while she appeals her conviction.

Authorities charged 59-year-old Terry L. Sullivan with animal cruelty eight days after the sickly 20-year-old mare was spotted April 10 at her property on Shaner Lane. A neighbor said it was lying on its side and covered with a blanket. The horse died the next day.

A necropsy report conducted by the Virginia Department of Agriculture said the horse was in poor body condition, had eroded teeth, prominent ribs and suffered hair loss.

"Scant fat was noted in the body cavities ... ." the report stated.

Although the report did not list starvation as the cause of death, a veterinarian testified Tuesday that the horse died from food and water deprivation, according to assistant prosecutor Robin Boylan.

"A process that took weeks, if not longer," Boylan said.

Court records show Sullivan appealed two charges of animal cruelty in 1998 but later was found guilty. In that case, she was ordered not to own or care for horses, although court records do not state how long the ban was in effect. Sullivan currently has roughly 30 horses at her farm, all deemed to be in good health by the Virginia Department of Agriculture.

Boylan said the issue of Sullivan's ownership of horses could be revisited.

According to an Internal Revenue Service Web site, Sullivan is the president and treasurer of the Fern Leigh Equine Research Foundation.

A court date for the appeal, to be heard in Augusta County Circuit Court, has not been set.
Source: The News Leader - June 3, 2008
Update posted on Jun 4, 2008 - 12:27AM 
A woman accused of animal cruelty in a case involving a dying horse found April 10 on her property will have a her case heard June 3, according to court records.

The Augusta County Sheriff's Office would not disclose the cause of the horse's death. Terry L. Sullivan, the owner of the horse, is charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty.

Court records show Sullivan appealed two charges of animal cruelty in 1998 but later was found guilty.

The sheriff's office said Sullivan currently owns more than 30 horses. All have been checked by officials from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and deemed healthy.
Source: NBC 29 - May 3, 2008
Update posted on May 4, 2008 - 3:44PM 

References

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