A Castle Rock woman on Monday was sentenced to seven days in jail for starving and neglecting a horse and was barred from owning any other horses for two years.
“It goes without saying that this is an animal undergoing unnecessary suffering and pain,” Cowlitz District Court Judge David Koss said upon announcing the sentence.
Koss convicted Tessita Woodard, 43, of second-degree animal cruelty after a second day of testimony. Woodard and her father, Charlie Duff, both took the stand in her defense Monday.
Koss found that Woodard failed to provide either emergency assistance or euthanization in September or October 2016 for her horse, known as Dust. Dust was suffering from starvation and a severe botfly infection. Veterinarians described him as emaciated and skeletal.
Judge Koss noted that Dust had deteriorated while Woodard had entrusted him to family members, but she was responsible for his condition after Sept. 13, 2016, when her father called her about the horse’s dire condition.
“Her liability is not for causing the emergency … (but) once her father called her, then she was on notice,” Koss said. “At that point forward it was, she knew, an extreme emergency.”
In October that year, Castle Rock resident Amy Applebury found Dust on her property after he left a pasture belonging to Woodard’s cousin Joshua Pliler, with whom she had briefly left Dust while she made arrangements to euthanize the horse.
The Humane Society seized Dust that Oct. 22, and Woodard was arrested the following January on suspicion of first-degree animal cruelty.
Woodard gave an emotional address to Koss, maintaining that she had cared for horses her entire life and did what she thought was right for Dust.
“My dad and vet told me this horse needed to be put down,” Woodard said Monday. “I was very sad and heartbroken to see him like that … (but) there’s nothing I could have done to save him.”
Dust, who weighed about 980 pounds when he was taken from Woodard, now lives at a rescue facility, according to the Humane Society. Veterinarian Dustin Galer said Friday that Dust had already gained about 265 pounds by the time he examined the horse in April 2017.
On Monday, Duff called Dust a “hard keeper,” meaning a horse that has difficulty gaining and keeping on weight. Duff said Dust’s weight declined for about three months before October, despite the horse having access to ample food.
“He didn’t want to eat like he should,” Duff said of his daughter’s horse. “You could have feed, hay. … He just never realized all the nutritional value of his food.”
Duff said that the family veterinarian, Dr. Roger Gardner, examined Dust in September and advised that the horse be put down.
However, on the first day of the trial Thursday, Gardner testified that he “did not advise (Woodard) to euthanize (Dust).”
Woodard said that she purchased Dust in 2006 and gave him to her sister in 2012. After giving Dust away, Woodard said, she would only see the horse every couple of months.
Prosecuting attorney David Lervold argued, however, that Woodard still effectively owned Dust, since Woodard continued to provide financial support for Dust’s care. Judge Koss ultimately agreed and said Woodard’s claim that she effectively transferred ownership to her sister was not credible.
He also said that Woodard failed to provide instructions to Pliler, who had little experience in horse care.
“The instructions she gives him (Pliler) are totally inadequate for the peril (Dust) is in,” Koss said.
There also was conflict about Dust’s age. Woodard, who said she bought Dust in 2006 when he was in his late teens, said he is about 30 years old but looked young for his age.
But two veterinarians who testified Thursday independently aged the horse at 8 to 10 years old and 9 to 12 years old, respectively.
Animal control officer Kevin Waldo, who spoke with Duff in September, told the court Monday that Duff gave Dust’s age as 6 to 8 years when he spoke with him in October 2016. Duff denied doing so.