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Investigator tells of alleged horse neglect
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A local businessman was bound to the grand jury this week on animal cruelty charges amid allegations seven horses on his ranch were sick and malnourished.
The defendant, Sid Stanton, was bound to the grand jury by General Sessions Judge Larry Ross on seven counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.
His indictment comes after lawmen raided his Sparta Highway ranch in July and seized 21 horses they felt were malnourished. They chose to file charges against him for seven of the horses.
According to sheriff’s investigator Jason Rowland, the raid was sparked by a report that a horse had been left for an extended period inside a horse trailer on the property and that a passerby on the highway had reported it.
Rowland noted the ranch sits between Sparta Highway and Old Rock Island Road making about 90 percent of the property visible from a roadway. Rowland said he used this visibility to conduct surveillance on the ranch for most of June, noting he did not see a proper feed supply most of the time. He also said there were many more horses at the ranch before the raid, suggesting Stanton knew the raid was coming
“I counted 65 head at one point, but there were just 38 there when we served the search warrant,” Rowland testified, noting there was also much hay there the day of the raid, hay Rowland said was not present for most of June.
The defense for Stanton said there could have been food in places not visible from the road, but Rowland said only the barns and a swampy area were not visible from the road.
“I don’t think he’s going to put a bunch of feed in the swamp,” Rowland told the court.
While doing most surveillance from the road, Rowland admitted going onto the Stanton property the day before the raid, without a warrant, along with a veterinarian to check the condition of the horses.
Rowland went on to say horses with a body condition of two or less were taken during the raid. The officer said vets rated the conditions on the scene.
The court action means Stanton continues to face two separate animal cruelty cases. The first came two years ago when officers raided his Bluff Springs Road ranch and seized several horses. Prosecutors have refused to grant him a pre-trial diversion which would have erased all charges against him in that case.
Supporters say Stanton has taken horses – old, sick and unwanted – in an attempt to nurse them back to health or at least allow them to live out their older years. One former employee said Stanton would spend $1,000 a week of his own money to feed horses.