Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19216
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: horse
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Saturday, Aug 6, 2011

County: Anne Arundel

Disposition: Alleged

Alleged: William Howlett Wilson

William Howlett Wilson loved horses.

For most of the past five decades - almost until his death last month from cancer - the retired body shop worker was a regular at area racetracks and horse farms, his family said.

When he would attend family dinners, he would sometimes bring jockeys and other horse caretakers to share in the festivities, they said.

"That is all I ever heard from him was horses," recalled Christina Webb, Wilson's 75-year-old twin sister.

But as the former Glen Burnie resident got older - and his health and finances started to falter - Wilson's passion for mares and stallions appears to have become a liability. After receiving a few tips last August about malnourished horses stabled behind the county government's Heritage Office Complex outside Annapolis, county police charged Wilson with 15 counts of animal cruelty.

Police said Wilson was supposed to care for four horses at 2654 Riva Road, but failed to provide the animals with enough food and veterinary care.

"Unfortunately you sometimes see best intentions go downhill," said Robin Small, the administrator of Anne Arundel County's Animal Control. "However, that is no excuse."

According to a court summons filed in October in Glen Burnie District Court, Animal Control on Aug. 6 found the horses to be thin and covered with abrasions and fly bites. They had dental problems and their hooves were overgrown, the document said.

In videos posted on YouTube, the horse's ribs and hip bones are clearly visible as the animals wander the farm-turned-junkyard.

"The pictures speak a thousand words," said Small, noting it was months before the horses were healthy enough to be sent to rescue groups.

"They were noticeably skinny. They were not receiving the nutrition they needed for an extended period of time," she said.

Norman McKinney, another caretaker of the Riva Road farm, disputed Small's characterization of the horses. He acknowledged that one of the four horses looked a little sick, but said the rest appeared to him to be in "good shape."

He argued that Wilson did nothing wrong.

"Every day he would feed them and give them water," McKinney said. "And if he couldn't make it, he gave us the feed and hay and we took care of them."

Only one of the horses was Wilson's, police said. According to Webb and court documents, he agreed last year to help a friend who had moved into a nursing home care for three other horses stabled on the property.

Small said it is not uncommon for self-described animal lovers to find themselves overwhelmed. She urged people to call a shelter or rescue group at the first sign they can't care for an animal.

"It's certainly sad (when a person falls on hard times) … but you can't explain that to a horse," said Small. "The horse is still hungry."

Wilson's sister and his nephew, Shawn Webb, said last week that Wilson's family had no idea his horses were suffering. At the same time, family members didn't understand how he was able to pay for their care.

Wilson had struggled to pay his bills the last few months and was evicted last October from his apartment in Glen Burnie, they said.

"I could never understand it," said Christina, who took her brother into her Suitland home after he was evicted. "When he couldn't afford his apartment, I couldn't understand how he was affording a horse."

"He tried to have a champagne hobby on a beer budget," added Shawn.

The Webbs said Wilson would ask them almost daily for money to buy gas and hay.

Christina said he always seemed to be borrowing her car to pick up hay bales and delivering them to the horses. She recalled cleaning out her car after Wilson died Dec. 26 and filling two large garbage bags with the hay found in her trunk.

"It's just unbelievable this could happen. … He was never really cruel to anything," said Christina, noting how her brother would save food from his plate to feed her dog.

"If anything, he loved animals too much," Shawn said.


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