Case Snapshot
Case ID: 16880
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: horse
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Judge(s): Brenda Stoss

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Monday, Nov 1, 2010

County: Saline

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

Person of Interest: John Caldwell

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

A truck driver has been charged with two misdemeanors after two horses he was hauling to Oklahoma had to be euthanized when he stopped at a truck stop near Salina.

John Caldwell, 23, of Wetumka, Okla., was charged in Salina Municipal Court with animal cruelty and failing to provide care. City prosecutor Jennifer Wyatt said Wednesday that no court date had been assigned yet for Caldwell.

Caldwell and his girlfriend, Chelsea Proctor, 18, of Wetumka, Okla., picked up 15 horses Oct. 31 in the Denver area. Three, possibly four, of the horses fell down in the trailer as Caldwell hauled them west on Interstate Highway 70.

Caldwell told The Salina Journal that he was unaware that the horses were down until other motorists began flashing their lights and honking at him.

When he stopped at a truck stop near Salina, three horses in the trailer were down. Other horses in the trailer were led out. A fourth horse may have fallen in the trailer while it was parked.

The truck stop manager called police.

One of the horses had a number of scars and fresh wounds, apparently from being stepped on in the trailer. The horse was bleeding from the mouth, and there was an area on his back where the hide had been rubbed clean.

Stan O'Neil, a retired Salina veterinarian who was called to examine the horses, euthanized that horse and another one.

"I did see the third horse down, and it got up as soon as some of the other horses were moved," O'Neil said.

Caldwell said the horses weren't in great condition when they were loaded onto the trailer. He speculated the horses were used in guided hunting expeditions.

The remaining horses were picked up later in Salina on Nov. 1 and hauled to Oklahoma. The horses are owned by someone from Arkansas but police have not released that person's name.

"I feel like the horses were not in the best shape when (Caldwell) picked them up, and for his protection, it would have been prudent for him not to have loaded some of those weaker horses," O'Neil said.

The charges "are probably very legitimate," said Yvonne Gibbons, director of the Salina-Saline County Health Department, which operates the Salina Animal Shelter for the city Salina.

"Not knowing what condition the animals were in when they were picked up in Colorado, it's hard to say who had responsibility," she said. "But certainly, some charges had to be filed."

The potential sentence for the two misdemeanors is a maximum of a year in jail and/or $2,500 in fines for each charge.

Case Updates

The horses were in such bad shape that two of them had to be euthanized by the time the trailer they were riding in reached Salina, but their condition was not the fault of the driver.

Salina Municipal Court Judge Brenda Stoss acquitted Johnny D. Caldwell, of Wetumka, Okla., of a charge of cruelty to animals Thursday after hearing testimony from several people who assisted with the distressed horses Nov. 1.

A charge alleging that Caldwell had failed to meet animal care requirements was dropped before the trial began because it was established that Caldwell did not own the 15 horses in the trailer he was hauling from Colorado to Oklahoma as a favor to a friend.

Caldwell, who was 23 at the time of the incident, said after the trial that the horses appeared to be underfed and had saddle sores when he picked them up, but they were already loaded in the trailer and he had been paid to haul them.

Salina police officer Gregory Jones testified Caldwell had told him that the horses had been used on an elk hunting expedition at a ranch in Silverthorne, Colo., and they were owned by a man in Arkansas who contracts horses out to ranches.

An acquaintance of Caldwell's was originally going to pick up the horses, but Caldwell took the job when that man's truck had mechanical trouble.

When he arrived, the horses were already loaded in a trailer not designed to hold 15 horses, but the horse owner said they would be all right, so he carried on, Jones said.

"They looked like they had been ridden hard," Jones said. "There were saddle sores and duct tape where the horn would be on a saddle on one of them."

Jones confirmed that Caldwell had said it had been his practice to check on the horses every 100 miles during the all-night trip from Colorado, and that his last stop had been in Hays.

When he got near Salina other motorists started indicating something was wrong by turning on their lights and honking, so Caldwell pulled into the lot of the 24/7 Store off West Crawford Street.

Manager calls police

Jones said he went to the store after manager Gail Weir called police because she observed a white horse lying in the parking lot.

"The horse couldn't move. It was bleeding out of the mouth. It was scared, and it was not able to get up," Weir testified.

She said she spoke with the people who were towing the horse trailer, which contained two other horses that were lying down, and they told her they were waiting for someone to bring a forklift so the horse could be reloaded in the trailer. She said she was told the horse in the parking lot had been pulled out so that they could assist another distressed horse.

Attorney Roger Struble, who represented Caldwell, asked Weir if she had knowledge of horses. She said she had participated in a horseback drill team as a teenager.

He asked if she was aware that if a horse went down in a trailer, other horses would kick or stomp at it. She said she was aware that would be possible.

Jones said the distressed animals attracted a lot of attention from passersby.

"When you have a horse down on Crawford right off the Interstate, all kinds of people stop to offer opinions," he said.

Jones said he called the Salina Animal Shelter to handle the situation.

Animal control officer Amber Fishburn called Stan O'Neil, a retired veterinarian who had worked with large animals. O'Neil euthanized the white horse where it lay and euthanized a brown horse that was down in the back of the trailer after the other animals were taken to Farmers & Ranchers Livestock, an auction business at 1500 W. Old Highway 40, she said.

"The brown horse lying in the back of the trailer had an eye swollen shut and abrasions on its back and legs," she said. "There was a lot of blood in the trailer from that particular horse."

Fishburn said Caldwell told her he was aware of the condition of the horses.

"When I stated to him, 'Did you know the horses were in this condition when you picked up the trailer?' he said, 'Yes,' " she said.
Source: - Jun 10, 2011
Update posted on Jun 10, 2011 - 10:39AM 


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