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Jefferson Co. horse owner faces cruelty charges

March 27, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - A Charles Town man was charged Monday morning with 10 counts of cruelty to animals after Jefferson County Sheriff's Department deputies found five dead horses on a farm off Huyett Road south of town and discovered that about 10 horses on the property were malnourished, according to court records.

Dennis B. Danley, 54, of 44 Colorado Court, was released on a $7,500 bond, according to Jefferson County Magistrate Court records.

Each of the cruelty to animals charges carries a possible punishment of a fine of $300 to $2,000 and/or a jail sentence of up to six months, court records indicate.

Cpl. Vincent Tiong said a worker at Charles Town Races & Slots went to the sheriff's department Feb. 9 and told him about the horses. Tiong said the track worker told him there were 10 to 15 horses in a field off Blakeley Farm Lane that were not being properly fed and did not have water.

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According to a criminal complaint filed in Jefferson County Magistrate Court, Tiong said the horses appeared to be skinny and there was "only one bale of hay" in a field.

He discovered that several horses were not properly buried, and members of the sheriff's department found about five or six dead horses that had been left along a tree line, Tiong said in court papers and an interview.

The horses were "left there to decompose, basically," Tiong said. One of the horses had been dead about two weeks and the rest were skeletons, Tiong said.

Tiong said he met with Danley on March 14 and told Danley that horses on the property needed to be examined.

Doctor's visit

The next day, a doctor from the Valley Equine Association in Ranson, W.Va., met with Tiong at the property, according to the complaint. All of the horses had rib cages and spines showing and a few of the horses were suffering from "rain rot," which is caused by horses being left in the rain, Tiong said.

The doctor said 10 horses were malnourished and had little food or water, the complaint stated.

Tiong said Danley told him that he was taking care of his horses and that he was feeding them every day. Danley told Tiong that the horses last saw a veterinarian in September 2006 and that the horses "were supposed to look thin" because they were being bred, the complaint stated.

Tiong said he and Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober met with Danley on Monday morning and explained to him how the case was being handled.

"He was cooperative," Tiong said.

Danley could not be reached for comment.

Danley's wife, Bonnie Danley, defended her husband, saying she and her husband were having financial problems and that no one had been cruel to the horses. Bonnie Danley said she and her husband are in the horse racing business but their racing efforts "dried up on us. Financially, we are strapped. We've been doing everything we can to take care of those horses. We're just flat-out broke," Bonnie Danley said in a telephone interview.

The president of the Charles Town chapter of the Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association, the organization that represents horsemen at Charles Town Races & Slots, was quick to point out that the incident is not the norm for the horse breeding industry in Jefferson County.

"Horsemen don't like to see that at all," Randy Funkhouser said.

The sheriff's department has received calls from members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association, Tiong said.

The callers have been concerned about the welfare of the horses, but the sheriff's department wants any efforts to take care of the horses to be worked out between Danley and the organizations, Tiong said.

Funkhouser said he did not know if his organization had been involved in any attempts to take care of the horses. Some local horse owners have thrown hay over the fence to the horses recently when word began spreading about the case, Funkhouser said.

It is the second horse cruelty case in the Tri-State area since December.

Barbara Reinken was charged with 77 counts of animal cruelty - four of them felonies - that allege she failed to provide for about 70 horses and one cat at her 4040 Mills Road farm in Sharpsburg.

About 70 horses were found on the farm in various conditions of neglect - half of the herd was found severely infested with parasites, about one-quarter were very thin and most appeared without recent dental or hoof care, according to charging documents.




Recent animal cruelty cases



Other recent cases of alleged animal cruelty in the Tri-State area:

· Barbara Reinken was charged in December 2006 with 77 counts of animal cruelty - four of which were felonies - that allege she failed to provide for about 70 horses and one cat at her 4040 Mills Road farm in Sharpsburg.

· Tim and Cindy Keller of Chambersburg, Pa., were charged in February 2007 with eight counts each of animal cruelty and one count each of operating a kennel without a license after police removed 63 mostly sick and undernourished dogs.

· Mara Spade of Inwood, W.Va., was charged last summer with one count of animal cruelty and 149 dogs were placed in the custody of the county's Animal Control division.

· Patricia K. Nicholson of Mount Airy, Md., pleaded guilty in September 2006 to 46 misdemeanor counts of neglect after police found the woman living with 300 mostly dead cats.

· Robert L. Tomlin of Hagerstown pleaded guilty in November 2006 to aggravated animal cruelty. Police alleged that he threw four of his girlfriend's kittens into a fire pit.

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