Woman to face cruelty charges
By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 23, 2014 1:50 AM
The owner of the Wayne County stable where two horses died in late January and a third had to be euthanized has been charged with five misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.
The charges were filed Wednesday against Avalon Stables owner Andrea Pendergrass following a nearly three-week investigation by Wayne County Animal Control and the U.S. Equine Rescue League.
"We only have two of the necropsies back yet, and they are saying that the animals died from starvation," Wayne County Animal Control Director Vicki Falconer said. "I took the charges out. The Sheriff's Office will have to serve them."
The papers were served Thursday afternoon and Mrs. Pendergrass was placed under a $1,000 bond.
The U.S. Equine Rescue League suggested the five counts, Mrs. Falconer said.
Mrs. Falconer said she and Jennifer Hack, U.S. Equine Rescue League executive director and investigations director, did not pursue felony charges because they did not think Mrs. Pendergrass was malicious in the treatment of the animals.
"We think she just got in over her head," Mrs. Falconer said. "I am not going after her on any of the horses that I removed that were being boarded there and have owners," she said. "I am not going to get in that because it is a lot of he said, she said right now.
"They are all alive. They are all healthy and off the property. I am going after counts on the three that died on the property and the two that belonged to the Equine Rescue League that they took off the property. They want charges on those two. One was colicky when they took her off, and they rushed her on to a vet."
The three boarded horses have been turned over to their owners, Mrs. Falconer said.
Mrs. Falconer said she is aware of an online petition calling not only for charges, but for Wayne County commissioners to take action to ensure that animal control is doing its job.
It also alleges there have been numerous complaints filed with Wayne County Animal Control about the stable.
Records of complaints filed with the animal control office are not computerized and as such, researching calls requires the time-consuming task of going through the records manually, Mrs. Falconer said.
However, she said that after looking back through the records since May 2013 that she had found only two calls about the stables. Both were about animals running at large, she said.
All of the horses were given medical exams and checked for worms, but there is no evidence the animals suffered from higher-than-expected levels of worms, she said.
Ms. Pendergrass had been working for months trying to find someone to take the horses, Mrs. Falconer said.
"It wasn't a cruelty thing," Mrs. Falconer said. "She was winding down. One of the boarders had had their horse there four years. If it had been that bad all along, why was the horse still there?
"A couple of months ago we received an email from Mrs. Pendergrass, she had sent it out to a lot of people, looking for somebody to take her horses. She had some draft horses, she didn't want to get rid of them, but was looking for someone to help her foster the horses until she was more on her feet."
Mrs. Pendergrass said she had been planning to close the stable because of a lack of funding and volunteers. People who were boarding horses there were going to be told to move them, she said.
Mrs. Pendergrass said she did not know what had been wrong with the animals other than a couple of the horses had been underweight because the stable had been struggling with a worm problem.
"Other than that they were in pretty good shape," she said.
Mrs. Falconer said the horses that died were older animals.
"She put them up Tuesday night (Jan. 28) in their stalls because of the (winter) weather," Mrs. Falconer said. "About 11 o'clock (Wednesday, Jan. 29) she let the horses out of their stalls. When she went back out at 4 o'clock to put them back up for the night she had two down that she could not get up."
Mrs. Pendergrass called 911 that Wednesday night and Animal Control Officer James Smith was called about 7 p.m. about the horses, Mrs. Falconer said.
"Because of the weather, and it being her horses, he did not respond because there was nothing that we could do to get the horses up," Mrs. Falconer said. "James told her to call the vet or to try and get somebody to help her get the horses up."
Mrs. Pendergrass said she had been unable to get help for the horses in a timely manner because some people had spread rumors that she was refusing help.
"I have never turned down help," she said.
Mrs. Pendergrass said her vet had been in surgery and was unable to come. Another vet she called refused to come because of the rumors, she said. By the time help arrived Friday morning, it was too late, she said.
Mrs. Pendergrass said she posted a plea for help on Facebook and that Saulston firefighters responded. They were able to get the horses on tarps and pulled into the barn where they started to warm them up, she said.
Warm IV solutions were used as well and at first the animals appeared to be improving, before taking a turn for the worse, she said.
Two of the animals died and the third was euthanized Friday morning, Jan. 31, by the rescue group.