Gatesville, Tx (FOX 44) – UPDATE: The Coryell County Sheriff’s Office says a second person is facing charges in an animal cruelty case involving 14 horses. Three of the horses have died.
Authorities in Palo Pinto County arrested 37-year-old Sabrina Hale on outstanding warrants from Coryell County. Hale is now in the Coryell County Jail on 18 criminal charges and a $180,000 bail.
34-year-old Colton Riley Hale is the other suspect in the animal cruelty case. He faces 14 counts of cruelty to livestock animals. Bond was set at $35,000.
The two are accused of cruelty and abandoning the 14 horses after a property owner near Topsey called the Coryell County Sheriff’s Office on the evening of August 3 to report that the horses’ owners were not seen since May 2, and she could not afford to care for the horses.
The property owner told officers that she did not see the horses out there for some time, and that the owners were supposed to be taking care of them. The property owner said three of the horses had died, and that she did not want any additional deaths, but she could not afford to feed the animals. The horses’ owners were not replying to her attempts at contact.
The Sheriff’s Office’s Livestock Deputy met with the property owner on the morning of August 4 to look at the horses. At the property, the deputy discovered “several round bale feeders on the property that were empty,” as well as “three troughs filled with water and no grass anywhere on the property.” There also was no hay observed.
The deputy walked through the property and discovered a large brown horse carcass on the north side of the house. The property owner also told the deputy that there were two other horse carcasses in the northwest pasture. The eleven surviving horses were in “bad shape,” with bones seen protruding from their heads, ribs, and hips.
The property owner released the horses to the Sheriff’s Office for safekeeping. This was based on the circumstances of the horses’ living conditions and body conditions, the inability to contact the animals’ owners and the property owner’s inability to properly care for the horses. The eleven surviving horses were removed from the property and taken into Sheriff’s Office custody on August 5.
The deputy attempted multiple times to contact the owners of the horses multiple times, with no success.
A local veterinarian examined the eleven surviving horses on August 8. Each horse was assigned a Body Condition Score (BCS). The Sheriff’s Office says this is a scale ranging from 1-9 out of 9 – with the average or ideal horse weight as a 5 out of 9. Thinner horses score lower while fatter horses score higher than 5.
The veterinarian found the horses to be “very thin, exhibiting signs of malnourishment.” He further stated that he would consider two of the horses to be emaciated and scored each of them a 1/9.
Based off the deputy’s observations and the veterinarian’s assessment, which established Probable Cause, the Sheriff’s Office issued 14 arrest warrants for Hale alleging Cruelty to Livestock Animals (Abandonment – Failure to provide necessary food, water, or care). Each charge is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or a fine up to $4,000.
Hale was taken into custody in Gatesville on Thursday, and was jailed on bonds totaling $35,000. He was released on bond from the Coryell County Jail on Saturday, August 19.
“These horses were in a terrible situation, and I am happy they have been removed and are receiving the care and attention they deserve,” Coryell County Sheriff Scott A. Williams said. “Sometimes the ideas of neglect or cruelty to animals can be subjective, but this is an apparent case of cruelty through abandonment when the owners made the decision to stop providing even basic care for these horses. We have zero-tolerance for cruelty to animals, whether they be livestock or pets, in Coryell County and I think this situation illustrates that. Our only hope is that these animals continue to improve and can live out their lives in loving, caring homes.”
The Sheriff’s Office says the investigation into this matter is ongoing, and additional arrests are anticipated.