Freeport horse owners facing charges

FREEPORT – Two individuals from Freeport, who attended last week’s Harrison County Commissioners meeting to protest the seizure of their two horses by the Humane Society, now have pending charges against them.

According to a Harrison County Humane Society press release, charges against the said parties are for failure to comply with the Ohio Revised Code 959.13 [Cruelty to Animals] which states: “(A) No person shall: (1) impound or confine an animal without supplying it during such confinement with a sufficient quantity of good wholesome food and water.”

Kenneth Feister and Gloria Woods claimed last Wednesday that they did not mistreat their animals. They said one horse, named Sugar, was in excellent health. They admitted that another horse, named Bunny, was too thin. However, they had only been in possession of Bunny for two months, and say she was received in poor condition from her previous owner.

At the meeting, they showed records of veterinary visits from after Humane Officer Darla Smith’s first visit on April 5. They also showed handwritten accounts from neighbors and a farrier, who testified that they had seen Bunny’s condition improve under Feister and Woods’ care.

However, the Humane Society claims the horses’ visible condition was not the only reason for their seizure.

“Both horses were confined in a pasture with no grass, their water bucket was only partially filled with unclean water, and no feed or hay was readily available,” according to the press release. “Horses are grazing animals and the conditions of the horses were unacceptable… if the horse was ‘originally neglected’ as Woods stated to county officials, why didn’t she seek vet care prior to the Humane Officer’s recommendation?”

The Humane Society visited the couple’s property again on June 7, for a wellness check, and found Sugar and Bunny in the pasture with no grass, feed or clean water.

On June 12, the Humane Society, accompanied by sheriff’s deputies, executed a warrant to take the horses. While the pasture for the horses had been extended, the Humane Officers found no new grass or hay for grazing.

Feister and Woods previously said they were opposed to where Sugar had been placed, and did not know where the Humane Society had taken Bunny. Smith could not confirm where the horses are being kept currently.

“The Humane Society believes that two months is ample time to improve the conditions and plenty of time to put weight onto Bunny. Woods stated to the county officials that Bunny was brought into her care in worse condition, however, we have pictures from the previous owner that shows otherwise,” said the press release.

By phone, Smith also said she has been harassed by Feister.

“We’ll hash it out in court,” she said. “The man’s threatened to come to my home because I won’t answer by phone or text anymore. It’s gotten clear out of hand.”

Woods countered Smith’s claim, saying Feister has never made any such statement. They do, however, believe part of Smith’s job should be explaining why animals are taken. Part of last week’s commissioner meeting concerned where Smith’s authority comes from.

“We still don’t know” said Woods. “They should have that on file.”

Woods and Feister have called a number of Ohio agencies including the Department of Agriculture, the Attorney General and the governor’s office, all of whom told them that the Humane Society answers to county commissioners. However, the commissioners were told by Prosecutor Michael Washington that they do not have jurisdiction.

Warner may be reached at mwarner@timesleaderonline.com.