Case Snapshot
Case ID: 16136
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: horse
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Attorneys/Judges
Prosecutor(s): Andy Bigler
Defense(s): Mark Davis, Leonard Yelsky
Judge(s): Frederick Hany


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Friday, Jan 29, 2010

County: Ottawa

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Convicted
Case Images: 4 files available

Defendant/Suspect: Robin E Vess

Case Updates: 11 update(s) available

Authorities are investigating an animal cruelty case in Ottawa County that involves the extreme undernourishment of 31 horses and the death of six others.

The remaining horses have been rescued and moved over the last couple days, said Nancy Silva, humane officer for Ottawa County.

The horses were transported to the Sandusky County fairgrounds in Fremont, where dozens of humane officials and volunteers were caring for them.

The animals were rescued from a stable in the Oak Harbor area.

Six horses have died from the neglect and there were 37 horses originally, Ms. Silva said.

Ottawa County Sheriff's Department filed 42 counts of animal cruelty. Each misdemeanor charge carries a $750 fine and 90 days in jail.


Case Updates

Robin Vess was beating a dead horse when she appealed her conviction on 42 counts of animal cruelty.

Vess, of Oak Harbor, was sentenced last year to 18 months in prison, although all but 42 days were suspended.

An Ottawa County jury found her guilty in April 2010 of multiple counts of animal cruelty for depriving her Arabian horses of food and water. Some of the horses died from starvation and dehydration.

Shortly after the conviction Vess asked the Sixth District Court of Appeals for a new trial.

She accused her attorney, Mark Davis, of failing to properly advise her when a plea deal was offered, and she also said Davis didn't rebut expert testimony by veterinarians during the trial.

Additionally, she said she should have been granted a new trial because Nancy Miller, who testified against her, allegedly claimed to have a "vendetta" against Vess.

Her jail sentence was delayed pending the outcome of the appeal.

On Friday the court of appeals judges unanimously agreed: There is no basis to try the case again.

Vess failed to prove Miller had a bias, the judges' ruling stated, and there was no indication the guilty verdict would have been avoided, even without Miller's testimony.

Ultimately, Vess failed to prove there was any misconduct in the case.

Prosecutors agreed.

"We felt like the trial was fair and properly tried," Ottawa County assistant prosecutor Andrew Bigler said. "We are pleased to see the court of appeals upheld the decision."

Vess' attorney for the appeal was Leonard Yelsky, who declined to comment because he hadn't reviewed Friday's ruling.

Before jurors convicted Vess last year, prosecutors reportedly offered her a deal in which they would dismiss 39 counts of animal cruelty if she pleaded guilty to three counts.

Vess said she turned down the offer and took her chances with the jury because Davis felt good about his ability to defend her. She also claimed Davis couldn't guarantee a specific sentence if she accepted the deal.

In the end, the move backfired.

In addition to jail time Vess was placed on five years probation.

She could continue trying to appeal the case.

If she gives up, however, the court will order her to start to serving her sentence.
Source: sanduskyregister.com - Jun 25, 2011
Update posted on Jun 25, 2011 - 12:10AM 
An appeals court is set to hear arguments Monday on whether an Oak Harbor woman convicted of neglecting dozens of horses on her farm received a fair trial.

Robin Vess was found guilty in April, 2010, on 42 counts of animal cruelty for failing to properly feed and care for her horses. She was sentenced in Ottawa County Municipal Court to 42 days in jail, five years probation, and $8,711 in fines and court costs.

Those penalties have been stayed pending the outcome of the appeal filed by Ms. Vess' attorney, Leonard Yelsky, on Oct. 22. Monday's hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. at the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals.

The Humane Society of Ottawa County removed the horses from Ms. Vess' farm the night of Jan. 29 after receiving two complaints about the animals' condition. During the trial, several witnesses testified that the horses were found to be desperately weak, skinny, and dehydrated. The defense denied the charges, arguing that the horses were adequately cared for and some were thin because of age or medical condition. At the same time, the defense told jurors that Ms. Vess suffered from mental health problems and financial difficulties.

Ms. Vess' arguments for overturning the verdict center around two key complaints. One is that her attorney during the animal cruelty trial, Mark Davis, allegedly provided her with inadequate advice. The court documents state that Mr. Davis did not inform Ms. Vess of the consequences she could face if found guilty on all 42 counts of animal cruelty. He allegedly discouraged Ms. Vess from accepting a plea deal from the state prosecutor's office under which most of the charges against her would have been dropped if she pleaded guilty to three counts.

"Had she, Robin Vess, been fully informed of the ramifications of being found guilty of 42 counts of animal cruelty, Vess would have seriously considered accepting the state's plea offer to plead guilty to three counts of animal cruelty," reads a statement in the defendant's documents filed with the court of appeals.

Neither Mr. Davis nor Mr. Yelsky could be reached for comment Thursday. Mr. Yelsky did not represent Ms. Vess during the trial. The defendant also challenges Ottawa County Municipal Court Judge Frederick Hany's refusal to grant her request for a new trial. Ms. Vess made the request based on allegations that one of the prosecution's witnesses, Arabian Horse Club of Greater Toledo President Karen Miller, had a "vendetta" against her.

The appeal documents also question the reliability of photographic evidence of the horses' condition, and testimony provided by two veterinarians, Dr. Irene Lavigne and Dr. Leslie Avery.

Assistant Prosecutor Andy Bigler said this week he believes Ms. Vess' trial was fair, but added that she has a right to appeal.

"Any person has a right to appeal if they feel errors were made," he said. "They argued what they believe the law said and we argued what we believe the law said, and the court of appeals will say what they interpret the law to mean."

Humane Society spokesman Bruce Theobald expressed relief the appeal will finally be heard after several months of waiting.

The fact Ms. Vess has not yet served her sentence points to inadequacies in the justice system, he said. He doubted her conviction would be overturned.

"I think the thoughts ... she's basing her appeal [on] do not have merit," Mr. Theobald said. "I think Judge Hany bent over backward to make sure it was a fair trial."
Source: toledoblade.com - Apr 15, 2011
Update posted on Apr 15, 2011 - 12:42PM 
An Oak Harbor woman learned her fate Friday after being found guilty of neglecting dozens of horses to the point of starvation.

Robin Vess, 55, was sentenced to 42 days in jail, one for each horse, and a fine of $8,711.87 in connection with 42 counts of animal cruelty. She also received five years on probation and is required to participate in the court's mental health program.

Dozens of horses were taken by the Arabian Rescue Mission in January from Vess' farm near Oak Harbor. Vess' attorney has said she was depressed and lacked resources to care for the animals. Vess also claimed that she reached out to the Ottawa County Human Society, asking for help as she was financially unable to care for the horses. She contends the Ottawa County Humane Society did not respond to her calls for assistance.

As part of her sentence, Vess is prohibited from possessing or owning any horses.

Sentencing was handed down Friday in Ottawa County Municipal Court by Judge Frederick C. Hany.
Source: toledoonthemove.com - Sep 24, 2010
Update posted on Apr 15, 2011 - 12:40PM 
Robin Vess, the Oak Harbor woman convicted in April of neglecting dozens of horses at her farm, will get no new trial, the judge in the case ruled Wednesday.

Ms. Vess was convicted April 30 on 42 counts of animal cruelty following a four-day trial involving numerous witnesses.

Her attorneys filed a motion in July to request a new trial, alleging that a prosecution witness in the case had a "vendetta" against her. The witness, Karen Miller, who is president of the Arabian Horse Club of Greater Toledo, was one of four witnesses called by the prosecution.

However, Judge Frederick Hany of Ottawa County Municipal Court said that, given the amount of other evidence presented to the jury, the trial results would not have changed if Ms. Miller's testimony had been omitted.

Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 24.
Source: Toledo Blade - Sept 9, 2010
Update posted on Sep 9, 2010 - 12:51PM 
Port Clinton Municipal Court Judge Fritz Hany has pushed back sentencing Robin Vess, 54, on 42 counts of animal cruelty from June 4 to July 16 so he can personally view the horses seized from the Oak Harbor resident.

Vess signed custody of her Arabian horses to New Jersey-based rescue group Arabian Rescue Mission days after the late January seizure by the Ottawa County Humane Society.

After the humane society and rescue group scuffled over custody of the horses, the Arabian Rescue Mission placed the horses in a number of foster farms across northwest and central Ohio, where they are recovering from starvation.

A jury found Vess guilty of 42 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty in April for allowing her horses to starve and dehydrate, resulting in the deaths of several animals. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail; however, under Ohio law a person can spend no more than 18 months in jail on misdemeanor charges.

According to an order filed by Hany on Tuesday, "In order to effectuate the overriding purposes of misdemeanor sentencing as is required by (Ohio law), the Court believes it would be helpful in achieving better understanding of the nature and circumstances of these offenses to view the horses which are the subjects of this criminal case."

Prior to the trial, prosecutors intended to show the horses to the jury, but instead presented photos of the animals because of the complicated logistics of presenting the horses as evidence. The intent of presenting the horses was to show the animals had recovered to a better body weight with good nutrition and regular care, indicating the reason for their emaciation was lack of food.

Hany said the defense and prosecuting attorneys could file an objection to the inspection by Thursday.
Source: Sandusky Register - Jun 2, 2010
Update posted on Jun 10, 2010 - 5:02PM 
After four days of trial and three hours of deliberation, an Ottawa County jury on Friday found Robin Vess guilty on 42 counts of animal cruelty.

Witnesses, including two veterinarians who assessed the animals, testified that Vess’ Arabian horses were starved and dehydrated.

When Ottawa County humane officer Nancy Silva seized the horses from the property, many of them had protruding ribs and hip bones from malnourishment.

Though the high-profile case has been a contentious one, the courtroom was silent as Municipal Judge Fritz Hany read the 42 guilty verdicts.

Silva and other humane society affiliates exchanged smiles and quietly clasped hands to celebrate the victory.

Vess sat stoically at the defense table. Hany allowed her to be released on a recognizance bond until her June 4 sentencing date.

He stipulated that she must be in daily contact with the probation department, required her to check herself back into mental health counseling and barred her from owning any horses in the meantime.

“Obviously we are satisfied the process worked,” assistant prosecutor Andy Bigler said.

A second-degree misdemeanor carries up to a 90-day jail sentence and a $750 fine per count; however, under state law, a person cannot be sentenced to more than 18 months in jail for misdemeanor charges. Bigler said he didn’t immediately know what kinds of fines Vess could face.
Source: Sandusky Register - May 1, 2010
Update posted on Jun 2, 2010 - 5:30PM 
In a brief court hearing, a judge Friday denied the request of an Oak Harbor woman to throw out evidence in her animal-cruelty case in which 36 Arabian horses were seized in January because of their emaciated condition.

Ottawa County Municipal Judge Fritz Hany said he denied the motion by Robin Vess for two reasons: he felt oral consent had been given to enter the property and the circumstances of the severe condition of the horses.

Neither Ms. Vess nor her attorney, Mark Davis, were in the courtroom for the judge's decision.

Representatives from the Ottawa County Humane Society took at least 36 horses from Ms. Vess' farm on Jan. 29 after receiving two calls from people expressing concern for the horses' health.

Four horses were put down at the farm because they had fallen and were too weak to get up, witnesses said. Another horse was dead when humane society officers arrived.

During a hearing last month in Judge Hany's courtroom, Ms. Vess denied accounts that she'd given permission for the humane society to enter her farm. She said she had told humane society officer Nancy Silva that she was busy and to call back another day.

Ms. Vess told the court her horses had been well cared for and had "ample feed."

During the same hearing, Mr. Davis argued the seizure of the horses was "unlawful" and said his client's constitutional rights had been violated.
Source: Toledoblade.com - Apr 2, 2010
Update posted on Apr 5, 2010 - 2:31PM 
The attorney for an Oak Harbor woman facing animal cruelty charges after dozens of emaciated horses were removed from her farm is asking that the evidence against his client be discarded because the horses were taken without a warrant.

Mark Davis, who is representing Robin Vess, filed a motion yesterday in Ottawa County Municipal Court stating that the Humane Society of Ottawa County and an assisting police officer acted unlawfully when they seized the 36 horses from Ms. Vess' farm in Carroll Township on Jan. 29.

"Since the Plaintiff entered without a warrant, the seizure of evidence was unlawful and cannot be used against the defendant," Mr. Davis wrote in the filing. "As such, the law requires suppression of all such evidence."

Humane Society officers took the horses from Ms. Vess' farm without a warrant after receiving what they said was an anonymous tip. The horses were found severely malnourished and dehydrated and were taken to the Sandusky County Fairgrounds, where Humane Society officers and volunteers cared for them. Over the weekend, the horses were transported to foster homes in Ohio and Michigan.

Ohio laws regarding humane societies include a provision allowing "any person" to intervene in a case of animal neglect by entering "a place in which the animal is impounded or confined and supply it with necessary food, water, and attention." The law says the neglected animal may be removed "if necessary."

However, John Dinon, who heads the Toledo Area Humane Society, said humane officers do need to obtain a warrant before seizing an animal.

"We have to follow the same rules as the police. Cruelty investigation powers are police powers," Mr. Dinon said. "Unless we're invited on the property, … we have to establish probable cause and get a warrant."

Chris Marcinko, attorney for the Humane Society of Ottawa County in the criminal case against Ms. Vess, declined to comment on the filing.

In a separate statement filed with the court, Ms. Vess repeated claims made by her lawyer that she had contacted the Humane Society for help with the horses several times in the months before the horses were seized. Mr. Davis has said Ms. Vess suffers financial troubles and has been severely depressed following the recent deaths of three family members.

Also yesterday, the last rescued horse was taken to a temporary foster home. Placing the horses in foster homes followed more than a week of legal wrangling over where the animals would go. Terri Figueroa of the Arabian Rescue Mission, which coordinated the foster-home effort with the Humane Society of Ottawa County, said the departure of the horses went relatively smoothly.

"It did all work out in the end, but there were a lot of tears," Ms. Figueroa said, explaining that the volunteers looking after the horses had become very attached to them. "It went off as well as something this emotional can go."

Nevertheless, several horses may be moved again in the coming days. Jeffrey Holland, another attorney for Ottawa County's Humane Society, said some horses were taken to homes in Michigan that the society had not approved.

That upset Linda Logan, who said she'd been asked to release three of the horses she'd taken to her cousin's farm in Michigan. She said another move could be detrimental to the horses' health.

"We're just mortified," Ms. Logan said, adding that one horse is in particularly bad shape.

"I'm just worried sick about her - she's got arthritis really bad in all of her legs. And one leg bows in the front. And just all this moving her from here to there to there, I just don't know what to do."

Tina Burkhart, who also took in several horses at her farm in Michigan, was similarly upset.

She said the animals were in bad health and her veterinarian did not think they should be moved again.

Mr. Holland said he hoped the disagreement could be resolved "cooperatively."
Source: Toledo Blade - Feb 23, 2010
Update posted on Feb 23, 2010 - 8:42PM 
Shayna Roberts is exhausted. The 26-year-old animal technician has worked 12-hour days at the Sandusky County Fairgrounds, organizing volunteers and tending to 36 malnourished Arabian horses rescued from a farm in Ottawa County last weekend.

By Wednesday night, Ms. Roberts was at the hospital with what turned out to be dehydration. With so much time spent caring for the horses, she'd forgotten to eat and drink properly herself.

"Let's just say I pushed myself past my abilities," the bright-eyed Ms. Roberts said, picking up a stack of papers listing the people who have volunteered to help. "Without them, I couldn't go home at all." Despite the long hours and incessant work, Ms. Roberts and those helping her are excited by the success of their efforts.

Since the weak and disoriented horses were brought to the barn Jan. 29, they have started to recover. Their drained silence has been replaced by a lively exchange of whinnies and snorts. Their heads and ears perk up as people approach - especially if they bring hay - and their eyes glimmer.

"It makes you feel good," said volunteer Deb Riffle, who's been helping with the horses since the rescue. "It gives you a smile and a warm heart." But the road to recovery remains long. The horses remain painfully thin - ribs and hipbones showing through their coats - and they rely on blankets to keep warm. Until their stomachs are stronger, they can eat only hay. The next dietary step will be mushed-up grain and will require each horse to be individually fed and monitored.


Then there's the medical care: hooves, joints, teeth, worm tablets, vaccinations. "The cost is going to be phenomenal," said Rebekah Recker, one of the core volunteers. "Even with all the help and donations, there's gonna be specific needs that have to be paid for."

Horse rescues come with a huge financial strain, said Jacque Lynn Schultz, equine grants officer for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. That's especially true for a small organization such as the Humane Society of Ottawa County, now in charge of the rescued horses in Fremont.

"It's a time when the shelter needs a lot of community support in order to keep going," Ms. Schultz said. "Getting these kinds of rescues is a tremendous cost burden."

Local experts agree that the recent horse rescue was unusually big for Ohio. While there have been some large-scale horse rescues recently in Texas and South Carolina, most cases of horse cruelty or neglect involve just a few animals.

Terry Figueroa of the Arabian Rescue Mission in Colesville, N.J., has rescued horses for 18 years and opened a branch in Ohio a year ago. Her organization helped with the Ottawa County case.

"It's big. I have not been involved in a rescue of this size," Ms. Figueroa said. "I've been involved with the rescue of three horses, six horses, maybe 10 horses at a time, but this is a big one."

The owner of the Ottawa County farm, 54-year-old Robin Vess, has been known in the Arabian horse community for years, having founded the Arabian Horse Club of Greater Toledo. She faces charges of 42 counts of animal cruelty.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. She is to appear in court Feb. 24.

The Humane Society of Ottawa County summoned rescuers to Ms. Vess' farm outside Oak Harbor after receiving what it said was an anonymous tip.

There they found dozens of emaciated horses, some so desperate for food they had eaten through the wood on their stall dividers, rescuers said. One foal was dead, and five horses had to be euthanized.

In an interview with The Blade, Ms. Vess' lawyer, Mark Davis of Toledo, defended his client on several fronts. He said only some of the horses were underweight, and their malnourishment was a result of illness, not lack of food. He said hay was available for the horses in the barn, although rescuers have said that hay was out of the animals' reach.

Mr. Davis said Ms. Vess had struggled to care for the horses because she was traumatized by the recent death of her mother and two aunts and did not have enough help on the farm. He said Ms. Vess had reached out to the Ottawa County Humane Society for help with the horses on numerous occasions but did not receive assistance.

"This is not something the humane society simply discovered and then ran into the burning barn to save the horses," Mr. Davis said. "They knew and they did nothing. They're equally as responsible as my client and I can prove that in court."

Humane society representatives declined to comment on the attorney's charge, but Chris Marcinko, an attorney who prosecutes cruelty cases for the humane society, said laws govern when and how a humane officer may act.

"The humane officer is required to follow and comply with those laws and rules, even in situations in which the laws and rules may be unpopular with some individuals," he said.

Diana Murphy, a longtime Lucas County horse rescuer and cruelty investigator, said the Humane Society of Ottawa County had known about the case for a while and acted too slowly.

"Those horses didn't get like that in a couple of days. It took at least three to six months," Ms. Murphy said.

Referring to the horses that perished, she added, "Those horses really didn't have to die. [The humane society] could've helped them a lot more than they did."

But Ms. Murphy also criticized Ms. Vess. She said the horse owner could have contacted rescue shelters and members of the horse community for help if she had been serious about seeking assistance. "I guarantee she would have got help," Ms. Murphy said.

Mr. Davis said he had not yet determined whether Ms. Vess had financial problems. A search of property records reveals Ms. Vess owned the 9.8-acre farm at 3140 North Behlman Rd. with her mother, Jean Vess, who died in 2008. The total appraised value of the property is $241,120.

Despite the magnitude of the Vess case, horse abandonment and neglect are growing problems in the economic climate. No precise figures on horse cruelty and rescues exist, but national and local experts confirm the problem is on the rise.

A 2009 survey by the Unwanted Horse Coalition, part of the American Horse Council, found 87 percent of people in the horse community believe horse abandonment, abuse, and neglect are "a big problem," up from only 22 percent three years ago.

John Dinon of the Toledo Area Humane Society said his agency has seen an increase in horse cruelty cases the past few years, although the number dropped slightly in 2009.

Horses are especially vulnerable to economic swings because caring for them is expensive. Ms. Schultz of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says caring for a horse at home costs on average $2,000 a year.

Housing them at a stable can be considerably more expensive. Also, the cost of hay is up because of drought or heavy rain in some parts of the country and because of farmers switching from hay production to corn, Ms. Schultz said.

Arabian horses are by no means immune to the nation's economic turmoil, which has made selling or adopting out horses a lot more difficult. Ms. Figueroa said two horses on her rescue farm in New Jersey were once worth about $1 million. Horses decline in value over time and usually change hands often.

"That really is the way of horse ownership in this country," Ms. Schultz said. "It's not like dogs and cats, where they're pushed as a forever pet. With horses, you're there for a while, you serve a purpose … and then you get sold or passed along, or if you're lucky, taken to a rescue or an auction."

One escape hatch for struggling horse owners used to be the slaughterhouse, Mr. Dinon said. That changed with a law in 2007 that effectively banned horse slaughterhouses in the United States.

Although this option may be unthinkable for some, Mr. Dinon said it did allow owners to avoid the cost of euthanasia when they no longer could care for or sell a horse. That means more horses left to die or shipped off to badly regulated slaughter facilities in Mexico, Mr. Dinon said.

Mr. Dinon also pointed a finger at Ohio's animal cruelty laws, which he said don't do enough to protect horses from neglect and cruelty. Although cruelty to horses is considered a second-degree misdemeanor even when it's a repeat offense, the same type of cruelty to dogs and cats can lead to first-degree misdemeanor charges.

For the horse rescuers at the Sandusky County Fairgrounds, the focus is on helping the horses regain their strength. It may take months for them to recover completely, but Ms. Roberts hopes they will be strong enough within a month to go to foster homes. Many former owners of the horses are hoping to get their animals back. But until the judge rules on the case, the horses' ultimate fate will remain uncertain.

To help with the cost of horses' care, contact the Ottawa County Humane Society at 419-734-5191 or at hsocpets@yahoo.com.
Source: The Toledo Blade News - February 7, 2010
Update posted on Feb 7, 2010 - 6:44PM 
An Oak Harbor woman was charged Monday with 42 counts of cruelty to animals stemming from the removal of 37 horses from her property.

Charges were filed in Ottawa County Municipal Court against Robin Vess, 54, of 3140 N. Behlman Rd. Each charge is a second-degree misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a maximum $700 fine.

Officials said the horses were removed starting Friday afternoon and through the evening into Saturday.

Many of the horses were emaciated and some died or were euthanized. They are being cared for at the Sandusky County Fairgrouds in Fremont.

Ms. Vess could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

No court dates have yet been set.
Source: Toledo Blade News - February 1, 2010
Update posted on Feb 3, 2010 - 6:08PM 
Even with the blankets on, it’s clear the horses are in rough shape. Lumps in the fabric show they are bony and frail. Some have cuts on their faces. Others are covered in clumps of matted hair.

Ottawa County humane officer Nancy Silva said the 31 horses she helped rescue from a farm in Ottawa County were starved, dehydrated, neglected and not far from death.

“The person was not feeding them, not watering them, not allowing them to be combed,” Silva said. “Some of these horses, this is the first time they’ve had a halter on. ... They were probably eating about what a miniature horse should.”

At 3 p.m. Friday, Silva said she responded to the unnamed farm where she found 37 mistreated horses, mostly Arabians, some of which were already dead. A few had fallen onto their sides. The weight of their ribcages crushed their lungs, suffocating them, which is a slow and excruciating way to die, Silva said.

Three horses were beyond help, and veterinarians euthanized them. Silva said the things she saw at the farm horrified her. She said this is one of the worst cases of animal cruelty she’s seen in her many years doing the work. “I don’t cry easy, but I haven’t been able to talk to people about this without bursting into tears,” Silva said. “I sobbed all the way home (Friday) night.” Silva oversaw the removal of the horses from the farm, but she couldn’t have done it alone.

She put the word out about the ugly situation and more than 50 horse owners and members of horse groups answered the call for help.

They provided trailers, hay, supplies, blankets and manpower to move the horses to the Sandusky County Fairgrounds in Fremont. A band of horse advocates continue to work around the clock to ensure the mistreated Arabians receive the care they have not received for many months. But even the impressive outpouring of support couldn’t change the reality of the horses’ conditions.

“These horses are very unhealthy,” said Juanita Dayringer, a volunteer and member of the Arabian Horse Club of Greater Toledo. “They are very thin, very underfed, probably haven’t had veterinary care in a long time and they are wormy, meaning they have internal worms.” Dayringer said healthy adult Arabians should weigh 800 to 1,200 pounds. She estimated the rescued horses weigh between 400 to 600 pounds " potentially even less. Without fat, the horses are especially vulnerable to the cold, Dayringer said.

Even in the barn, the temperature was only a few degrees warmer than the bitter 18 degrees outside. Volunteers huddled together to keep warm. They piled hay bales and made sure the water in the bowls didn’t freeze. They watched over the horses to make sure no more went down.

Saturday night, Shayna Roberts, animal technician and assistant at the Humane Society of Ottawa County, was bleary-eyed and shivering. Roberts did not sleep a wink on Friday night, because she was busy tending to the animals. “We have to watch the horses to make sure they take the food and get better, because they haven’t had food in so long that putting food in them makes them colic,” Roberts said. “We’re trying to make sure everyone makes it through this rough patch and we don’t lose anymore.”

Silva refused to release information about the horses’ owner, but she said the person will likely be charged with animal cruelty, a misdemeanor.

The owner will likely face 38 counts of cruelty, each of which is punishable by a $750 fine and 90 days in jail, officials said.

Silva said the cruelty in this case strikes her as intentional, but her investigation is far from complete.

For now, she just hopes the public will help financially support the horses. Despite all the donations of food and supplies, the veterinary bills will be thousands of dollars. And it will be weeks before the horses can be moved from the barn, Roberts said. It will take even longer before they can be adopted. “I have never seen a horse so hungry and thirsty as these ones,” she said.

Want to help?

Send donations to:

Humane Society of Ottawa County

2424 E. Sand Road

Port Clinton, OH 43452

419-734-5191
Source: Sandusky Register News - January 31, 2010
Update posted on Feb 1, 2010 - 10:29PM 

References

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