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CRESWELL, Ore. – A total of 61 horses were removed from a property near Creswell on Wednesday after an initial investigation showed they were suffering from severe neglect.
The Lane County Sheriff's Office said property owner Gwenyth Davies was cited for second-degree felony animal neglect.
The investigation is ongoing. The sheriff's office thanked the agencies and community members who assisted.
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, 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.”
Many of the horses will be transported to an alternate location for further veterinary examination and treatment. Sound Equine Options, a Gresham-based rescue organization, will transport horses to its facility near Portland.
Sound Equine Options, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization was founded in 2009 to assist the growing number of neglected, abused and abandoned horses in our community. Its mission is to save the lives of horses through support, education, rehabilitation, training and adoption.
In addition, to Sound Equine Options, Emerald Valley Horse Rescue, Oregon Humane Society, and Lane County Land Management Division are all assisting with the rescue operation and property compliance issues.
Owners of horses boarded by Davies can contact the Oregon Humane Society about getting the animals back.
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