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Horse Rescuers Face Charges of Cruelty, Neglect

A couple at a facility near San Jacinto are held after authorities euthanize 18 of their animals and seize dozens of others.

May 13, 2003|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

A Riverside County couple who boarded and rescued horses near San Jacinto were arrested Monday on 15 charges of animal neglect and cruelty, after 18 horses had to be euthanized and dozens of others seized because they were in poor health.

James Joseph Hardie and Deborah Loren Hardie were booked into the Riverside County jail in Temecula, where they were held on $25,000 bail each.

The Hardies were accused of failing to provide proper food, water and shelter to the horses at their facility, California Horse Protection, and stealing another horse sent to the facility to be boarded.

"It was sad; these people were in way over their head on this operation," said David H.K. Huff, a Riverside County deputy counsel who helped the county seize the animals. "The way some of the horses' hides were pulled over their bones made them look like concentration camp victims."

The Hardies could not be reached for comment Monday.

Riverside County Animal Control Officer Tisha Snyder investigated after receiving a complaint late last year.

"I saw over a hundred horses in various stages of starvation and dehydration. I saw eight horses in need of veterinary care due to apparent injuries,'' Snyder said in court papers filed on Oct. 30. "I saw one horse that was lying down in a stall in its own urine and feces that was unable to stand."

Snyder said it became clear the Hardies and a barn manager were unable to care for the horses.

On Oct. 4, a search warrant allowed a veterinarian to visit the horses. Snyder said Kent Patton was forced to euthanize 10 horses suffering from neglect. Animal control ordered 69 other horses, three burros and one mule impounded after Patton's examinations "for fear of further neglect."

In a separate arrest warrant application, Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy Judith Edwards alleged that a boarded horse named "Gala" is missing from the ranch. Edwards wrote that Deborah Hardie "admitted she and [her husband] adopted the horse out to another family without obtaining any bill of sale."

Huff said eight other horses were later euthanized and five were auctioned by the state Department of Food and Agriculture.

He said 51 horses, valued at no more than $500 each, remain at a county-contracted ranch. Horse maintenance is costing the county $11,000 a month, he said.

An arraignment date for the couple is pending.

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