D.A. gives peek into animal abuse case

D.A. gives rare peek inside animal abuse case

MANY, LA (KSLA) - ONLY ON NEWS 12:  We now hear first-hand from the man who will lead the prosecution in the animal abuse case involving at least 25 dead horses.  It's a rare look inside a case that's generated lots of public outrage which all began to unfold late last week in Sabine Parish.

Wednesday night, for the very first time we heard from the owner of the 52-horses confiscated from his property near Many, Louisiana.  And now, we hear from District Attorney Don Burkett, who calls this animal cruelty case unprecedented in scale for his parish.

At last count, more than two dozen horses have died on that ranch in Many, with bones the only evidence of some, while others found alive were too weak to stand.  Burkett told us, "I did go out last Saturday (1/07/12) for about fifteen, twenty minutes and looked a little bit about what was going on."

Dozens of other surviving horses could be seen living in poor conditions with little food.  The owner, Charles Ford, tells KSLA News 12 that he's the victim of a bad economy, unable to feed his horses enough.  "I spent everything I had that I could borrow, rake, and scrape into feeding those horses.  I gave away as many as I could give away."

After a judge's order Friday (1/06/12), by last weekend the Sabine Humane Society and horse rescue volunteers began removing well over 50 horses from the property, two of which later died in transport.

Now the D.A. is getting the same question over and over again, as Burkett recounted:  "What are you going to do with it (the case)?"  Burkett's answer:  He'll have a much better idea how to move forward once the reports by law enforcement and the humane society arrive at his office.

Burkett continued, "I'm just basically looking at medically what they say has happened to these horses and to the other animals involved.  That's the key thing I want to know.  From a medical standpoint what do they see, what do they think?"

Burkett acknowledges that financial problems can become a factor for struggling horse owners.  But, he questions whether that can be a rationale for everything that's happened at Ford's ranch:  "That, in and of itself, wouldn't be a legal defense I don't think."

Sunny Francois with the Louisiana Horse Rescue Association says she hopes Ford faces a criminal count for every horse affected, living and dead.  She also made a grim prediction, that the final count of dead horses on Ford's property will likely surpass 50, based on their investigation.

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