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CRESWELL, Ore. – A Creswell woman who had 61 horses removed from her property due to severe neglect has avoided jail time.
Gwenyth Davies, 49, will serve five years probation after pleading guilty to 11 counts of second-degree animal neglect.
Davies operated a horse boarding facility. Investigators said a veterinarian determined the horses were not receiving the minimum care standards under Oregon law.
In court, she was also ordered to pay $49,557.36 in restitution:
- $18,540.07 to the Oregon Humane Society
- $10,637.90 to Lane County
- $20,379.39 to Sound Equine Options
According to the payment plan that has been agreed upon, Davies will pay $300 a month toward restitution.
Going forward, Davies will only be allowed to have four horses in her care at one time during her probation. She will not be allowed to board other horses, and will be required to send unaltered pictures of her horses to Lane County Animal Services and the Oregon Humane Society. Officials will also go to the property to evaluate the horses and any other animals on the property.
Special prosecutor Jacob Kamins said the plea deals comes as Davies has accepted responsibility.
"This would not be a case I would enter into negotiations with unless there was some showing of early acceptance of responsibility on Mrs. Davies' part," Kamins said.
The Lane County Sheriff's Office said the plea agreement allowed the state to place restrictions on Davies' horse ownership that may not have been possible if the case had gone to trial.
“One of main goals in this case was to ensure this type of neglect doesn’t occur again, and this agreement allows for a level of oversight that can aid in achieving that goal,” said Sheriff Cliff Harrold.
The sheriff's office said that during the investigation, four dead horses were found at the property. During the seizure, horses were evaluated by a veterinarian and taken to another location for care. Three horses did not survive, the sheriff's office said.
Davies' attorney Laura Fine told the judge that Davies worked with the sheriff's office to help reunite owners with their animals.
"She reviewed photos of all seized horses, provided owner information and specific details about the horses' conditions and needs," Fine said.
Most of the remaining horses were returned to their owners. Four are still being held pending criminal charges against their owners, Erica and Raina Ott, who lived on the same property as Davies. They have been charged with second-degree animal neglect in connection with the Davies case, the sheriff's office said.
Davies has had previous contacts with Lane County Animal Services in 2018 regarding horses in poor condition, authorities said.
She lives at the property with her husband Michael DeLeonardo. In 2018, Davies complied with Lane County Animal Services’ requests and the horses were brought to minimum standards. The current investigation began on Oct. 16, 2019, and evidence suggested that the abuses may be criminal.
"Certainly looking at the emaciated horses it's clear to even people who aren't around horses a lot that's not what a horse should look like. It's important that we let the investigation continue and let the Oregon Humane Society gather evidence," said Lane County spokesperson Devon Ashbridge.
It started when Lane County Animal Services received photographs of horses that appeared to be severely neglected. The photographs were provided by Emerald Valley Equine Rescue after it received multiple complaints from people who once boarded their horses with Davies.
Neighbors KEZI 9 News spoke to recount seeing a back field on the property filled with horses, some showing ribs and hips. They also recounted hearing gunshots on the property regularly.
High-schooler Breonah Jones trains her own horses on an adjacent property. She describes rarely seeing the horses fed.
"They should have had food back there, 100%; they had so many horses in that back field that there wasn't even any grass. Just sheer dirt," she said. "They should be put into jail for a very long time for each and every horse that they did that to."
However, Carol Mingst, the owner of three horses taken from Davies' property, said the Lane County Sheriff's office went too far and her horses were not neglected.
"He is lightweight because he has a broken bone in his leg," Mingst said, referring to one of her horses. "He can't have a lot of weight on it. He's also slimmed down because he lost a lot of weight when he was sick."
Due to the large number of involved horses, Lane County reached out to the Oregon Humane Society and rescue organizations to begin identifying people who could help with the evaluation, removal, treatment and housing of so many large animals – which far exceeds local capacity.
The Lane County District Attorney’s Office is working with Oregon Animal Cruelty Deputy District Attorney Jake Kamins, who specializes in the prosecution of animal cruelty cases.
“Ms. Davies is known to Animal Services,” said Bernard Perkins, Lane County senior animal welfare officer. “While we typically focus on voluntary compliance and education, the level of alleged neglect and Ms. Davies’ history of violations goes far beyond what is acceptable in our community. We are grateful for the support of the sheriff’s office and district attorney in the pursuit of criminal charges.”
Sound Equine Options, Emerald Valley Horse Rescue, Oregon Humane Society, and Lane County Land Management Division all assisted with the rescue operation and property compliance issues.