Custody of 57 horses that were seized at a Hopkins County property earlier this month were awarded Tuesday to the animal rescue organizations that helped remove the animals.
Justice of the Peace Yvonne King heard about six hours of testimony in the case, which was moved to the district courtroom at the Hopkins County Courthouse due to the large number of people in attendance.
No charges have been filed against the owner of the horses, a 57-year-old woman, who moved to Hopkins County from California about five years ago.
“This hearing has nothing to do with any criminal charges,” Judge King stated as the hearing began.
Several witnesses from animal rescue organizations and local law enforcement agencies testified at the hearing.
Melanie DeAeth with True Blue Animal Rescue in Brenham, one of the non-profit organizations that assisted local authorities in removing the horses, typified most of the testimony. She said she had been in contact with the owner in January. DeAeth said she was told the owner had no money for feed. She said True Blue provided about $200 worth of feed for the horses, as well as about 50 wormers for the animals.
DeAeth also said they discussed placing some of the horses at other equine operations, but nothing was ever done.
“She could have utilized these resources to place them in a new home?” asked County Attorney Dusty Hyde-Rabe.
“Yes, ma’am,” DeAeth replied. “She never really utilized our resources.”
She said another horse rescue operation in March provided enough feed and hay for about a month. But these were only stopgap measures, DeAeth indicated, saying it would take about $5,000 a month to properly feed and care for that many horses.
“Were you concerned, with the cost, that she would never be able to keep up with them?” asked the county attorney.
“Absolutely,” DeAeth said. “I am sorry. I did try to help. I don’t think anyone — animal or person — should have to go days without feed.”
She said she had received an e-mail from the owner on April 26 stating that horses had gone three days without hay or feed, and that “things are very, very bleak.” After that last e-mail, DeAeth said, the decision was made to contact Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office.
She said the horses were “extremely thin.” Those that were housed in a barn had no ventilation and had not been exposed to sunshine.
“A lot were standing in three feet of manure,” she said.
Pinworms were an evident problem, as well.
“You could visibly see the worms coming out of their bodies,” she said.
“I was concerned it was a life or death situation for some of those animals,” she added.
Once Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office personnel determined immediate action needed to be taken, DeAeth said, True Blue and another organization, Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society, marshaled its members and volunteers, with about 30 people and about 15 trailers arriving on May 9 to take the horses to foster homes around the state.
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