Horses seized citing neglect
by Jason Collins
May 11, 2011 | 2172 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Horses seized citing neglect
Cheryl Martinez holds one of the horses seized Friday after a woman told an investigator with the Bee County Sheriff’s Office that it and four others were not being given enough food and water. Officials noted the showing ribs and hip bones on this horse.
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When Bri Reagan first walked onto the property off County Road 505, in south Bee County near Tynan, three months ago, she wasn’t prepared for what she saw.

“I was appalled. It just makes me ill,” she said Monday. “She is putting them in an equine concentration camp.”

It was February when Reagan first met the owner of the horses, Amanda Moritz.

“I had gone out there and befriended her,” Bri said. “I have been playing the double agent as far as being the one to get in and get information from her.”

On Friday, law enforcement officers converged on the home with help from volunteers wanting to see the animals safely taken away from the home.

What they found was an area barren of grass.

The ground was as hard as the rocks that dotted the landscape.

“I am not expecting everybody to have the Taj Mahal in their back yards,” she said. But animals, like horses, need the freedom to roam, walk and graze in order to stay healthy.

For Reagan, it was the lack of food and water that caused her enough concern to speak with Investigator Adam Levine with the sheriff’s office.

“The biggest concern out there is she had her electricity shut off prior to the actual seizure,” Reagan said. “She was not providing enough water or feed to these animals.”

Reagan said that a horse will drink 15 to 25 gallons of water a day.

“Just like us, if we don’t get enough water, we are going to go downhill. Especially that momma with the baby nursing,” she said.

“All of the horses were examined,” Levine said. “I spoke to the head of Habitat for Horses and she said all of the horses were underweight.”

Levine was unable to say much about the events because the case is still under investigation.

“We received a complaint about the neglect and we were able to go out there and able to obtain the warrant,” he said.

“We are tracking everything down,” he said.

On Tuesday, Justice of the Peace Joe Lyvers ordered that the five horses remain in the custody of Habitat for Horses out of Corpus Christi.

During the hearing, Levine said, “There was no water supply and nothing for them to graze.”

Sgt. Steve Linam, another investigator on the property Friday, said, “I did walk the entire property. There was no supplemental feed found.”

“Here is a receipt from Tractor Supply for grain,” Moritz said to Lyvers during Tuesday’s hearing. “Here is a hay receipt from the guy who delivered it.”

Moritz, describing her property as a place for horse “rehab,” said that she feeds the horses regularly and sometimes, as in the case of the mare and foal, upwards of four times a day.

A twist in this story came during the testimony when Reagan, who Moritz had asked to be at the hearing, spoke.

Moritz said, “Bri is here to testify that she did not file that affidavit. She was dropping her kids off at school.”

Morgan looked surprised at what she heard from Reagan.

“Contrary to what Amanda believes, I am the one that did the affidavit,” Reagan said. The affidavit, or sworn statement, was at least part of the evidence used to get the seizure warrant signed by Lyvers on Friday.

Outside the courtroom, Moritz described the proceedings as a “kangaroo court.”

Moritz submitted several photographs into evidence during the trial that she says show the animals in good health, with hay, feed and water available to them.

“I have a photo of the mare after she foaled eating grain,” Moritz said.

However, the date stamp on the photos was an issue with County Attorney Mike Knight, who was prosecuting the seizure case.

“I have not figured out how to adjust the date on that camera,” she told Lyvers.

Knight said that he requested the photos, based upon the date stamp one of which showed 2009, revealed the healthy condition of the horses when they arrived and not while they were there.

Moritz, however, contends that the horses were indeed healthy when they were seized.

“They have been fed twice a day and we haul water in,” Moritz said.

One of the horses in question, she said, had just had a foal a few days before and was understandably thinner than it was prior to birth.

“Horses are like humans,” Moritz said after the hearing. “You lose a lot of weight after you have a kid,” she said.

Knight, in response to a statement by Moritz, said, “I submit to you that they could not have received 40 pounds of sweet feed and hay per day and look like that.”

This is the third time that law enforcement has seized horses from the property.

During a seizure in 2008, officials took custody of at least 10 malnourished horses.

Sgt. Linam, who handled that investigation, said that one of the horses died after it was seized.

Linam said previously that the cause of death was malnutrition.

About five years before that, 24 horses were seized from the same property.

Reagan said that having known Moritz for several months, she didn’t believe she understands the amount of work involved in caring for an animal.

“She does not have the knowledge to care for a horse,” Reagan said.

Reagan said that the woman contends the horses are lean and strong.

“She will tell you that repeatedly,” Reagan said. “They are not fit. They are emaciated.”

Prior to Friday’s seizure, Reagan was able to get some of the horses off the property.

“There was an additional six at my house that had been logged in prior to the actual seizure,” she said.

Reagan hopes that these horses, at least some of which were purchased through lease agreements or contracts, are able to be returned to their original owners.

“Hopefully, they will be going back to their rightful owners,” she said.

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at
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