Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19913
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: horse
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Thursday, Apr 11, 2013

County: Hall

Charges: Felony CTA
Disposition: Alleged

Alleged: Karin J. Rojas

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

A Wood River woman has been charged with felony cruel neglect of an animal after a horse she owned had to be euthanized due to lack of food and water.

The charge was filed Thursday in Hall County Court against Karin J. Rojas, also known as Karen Rojas, 52, of 1404 Cottonwood Road in Wood River.

Laurie Dethloff, the executive director of the Central Nebraska Humane Society, said animal control officers were called to Rojas' home on March 28 to investigate a "horse in distress."

When the officers arrived, the horse "was in big trouble," Dethloff said. "He was on his side and he couldn't get up. It was just a difficult situation."

The officers called for assistance from the Hall County Sheriff's Department and also contacted a veterinarian to assess the approximately 25-year-old horse, she said.

"He determined it was best to euthanize the animal," she said.

It didn't appear the horse had been given any hay or grain recently, nor did it have access to water, Dethloff said. The horse had sores on its gums and other parts of its body that hadn't been treated, she said.

Dethloff said the horse was in poor condition due to lack of food, water and medical care.

The horse was found in a corral near the home where Rojas lives, Dethloff said.

She said the Sheriff's Department helped locate the horse's owner.

Sheriff's Sgt. Quinn Webb said a deputy cited Rojas for neglecting the horse. Deputies had investigated at least one previous report of animal neglect involving Rojas and a horse. That occurred in 2012, he said.

According to the filed charge, Rojas is scheduled to appear in Hall County Court at 1:30 p.m. April 24.


Case Updates

Karen Rojas was bound over to Hall County District Court to face the charge of felony cruel neglect of an animal following a Wednesday morning preliminary hearing.

Judge Philip Martin ruled that the Hall County attorney's office had met the minimum burden of proof that a crime had occurred and that Rojas, also known as Karin J. Rojas, 52, of 1404 Cottonwood Road in Wood River, was responsible for the crime.

During the hearing, the defense tried to show that it was just as probable that the animal's death was caused by some combination of age and disease, not from neglect.

The only witness called on Wednesday morning was deputy Casey Dahlke of the Hall County Sheriff's Department.

Dahlke testified that he was called to the location after the department received a report of an emaciated horse. He said he found a horse lying on the ground in a rectangular paddock or fenced-in area.

The corral was near Rojas' home, Laurie Dethloff, Central Nebraska Humane Society executive director, said previously.

He said the animal's ribs were visible and sores were visible on the horse's shins. Dahlke said the only water that seemed to be available for the horse to drink was black. He did not see any food available for the horse to eat.

During the time he was on the scene, the horse repeatedly tried to stand but always fell, Dahlke said. He said he and an animal control officer opened the gate to the enclosure to keep the horse from hitting it when it fell.

A veterinarian called to the scene said the horse was a "1" on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst possible condition, Dahlke said. He said the veterinarian informed him that the horse had a 20 percent chance of living through the night, but no chance at all that it would live long term.

The horse was euthanized, Dahlke said.

He also said he located Rojas, who said she was the horse's owner. Rojas indicated that the horse had been under a veterinarian's care and that she had made an appointment for that vet to euthanize the horse on March 29, which was the next day.

However, Dahlke said he checked with the veterinarian, who had no record that an appointment had been made.

As part of his testimony, a color photograph of the horse, with its ribs clearly visible, was submitted into evidence. The defense, in turn, submitted numerous black-and-white images of the property where Dahlke found the horse.

The prosecution objected because the photographs were taken six weeks after Dahlke had been at the scene.

After examining the defense images, Dahlke acknowledged that the enclosure for the horse was much larger than his original testimony had indicated. Dahlke said he did not notice horse droppings in the pen, which would have indicated that the horse was being fed despite its outward appearance.

Under further questioning, Dahlke said he does not own horses and is not an expert about their care. The deputy said he did not know the age of the horse that was euthanized. He also said he did not know the average life expectancy of a horse.

Dahlke said he did not know whether the veterinarian who was called to the scene drew blood from the horse to see if it was suffering from any condition or disease that might have caused its death.

During the cross-examination, Dahlke said he did not know of a bulletin issued by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture that warned of an equine disease that was killing horses in the state.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Martin sent the case to district court, saying Dahlke's hearsay testimony about what he had been told by the veterinarian and a Central Nebraska Humane Society officer about the horse's condition and what caused its death was sufficient to send the case to district court for disposition.

Martin said the questions about whether the horse had died from some combination of old age and disease were all legitimate defenses but are issues whose validity should be determined by a judge or jury at the district court level if the case goes to trial. Those defenses do not erase the statements that Dahlke said that others gave him about the horse's death.

Martin scheduled Rojas' arraignment in district court for 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Source: The Independent - June 5, 2013
Update posted on Jun 6, 2013 - 4:52AM 

References


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