No charges filed in Huntington Clydesdale deaths

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WANE) – The Huntington County prosecutor has decided not to file charges in the case of a handful of dead horses found on a well-known farm. While the prosecutor said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge the owner with neglect, at least one Huntington official is disappointed with the decision.

In March, Huntington County Animal Control officer Lori Vanover said an anonymous tip led authorities to a handful of dead and malnourished Clydesdale horses.  All of the horses belonged to Grandview Clydesdales. At the time, owner Shannon Cobbs told NewsChannel 15 the horses died because of the harsh winter. Vanover and the State Board of Animal Health investigated the incident.

After looking over the investigation, Prosecutor Amy Richison made the decision not to file any charges regarding the living horses said to be malnourished.

“There was just no evidence that those animals were in a state that they were not taken care of,” Richison said.

On top of that, Richison said Animal Control decided not to get necropsies done (the animal form of an autopsy) on the dead horses.

“We could not file charges because we don’t know how these animals died,” Richison said.

Vanover is disappointed with Richison’s decision. She said necropsies weren’t done because some of the dead horses were fairly decomposed.  State leaders explained that necropsies are rare because they take a lot of time, effort, and money.

The horse owners were not charged with improper disposal of an animal either.  Richison said that’s because they came back and properly disposed of the bodies as soon as they learned of the deaths.

In the end, Richison said not everyone will like her decision, but she can only go off of the evidence she receives.

“When you have any kind of dead animal on someone’s property, we automatically assume that it’s the owner’s lack of attention to that animal that caused the animal’s death,” Richison said. “I can’t make assumptions in my job. I have to look at the evidence [handed] to me. And the evidence presented was there was no explanation for the two dead animals on the property.”

There are still discrepancies as to how many Clydesdales were found dead. In March, Vanover said authorities recovered five that had died. But Richison said the investigation took into account two dead horses, and a third that had to be euthanized.

Wednesday, Denise Derrer with the State Board of Animal Health said investigators initially accounted for two dead horses and the third euthanized horse in their investigation.  Derrer said a fourth horse was found after their investigation but was never assessed by the State Board of Animal Health. She said according to the state’s investigation, a fifth horse was reported missing and was never accounted for.

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