A Graham-area man whose 39 horses were seized this week by Pierce County officials dotes on the animals and intends to fight for their return, his attorney said Friday.
“This is a guy who spends every last dollar and every last moment on these horses,” attorney Lance Hester said of his client. “He wants his animals back.”
County animal control officers, assisted by other agencies, spent Wednesday and Thursday confiscating the horses from a ranch in the 30800 block of Meridian Avenue East.
Auditor Julie Anderson, whose office oversees the county’s animal control division, said this week the horses were kept in “squalid, neglectful” conditions, including being housed in poorly ventilated and inadequately lit stalls where the floors, in some cases, were covered in foot-thick mats of manure and urine.
Some of the animals were injured and others were thin, Anderson said.
Hester said his client contends the animals were well-fed and that any injuries were minor. The barns that housed them were partly open to the outside, so plenty of natural sunlight streamed in, he added.
“He pays very close attention to all of them,” Hester said.
The News Tribune is not publishing the name of his client because he has not been charged. Anderson said animal control officers are trying to make a second-degree animal-cruelty case against him.
A veterinarian who has performed work for the owner for 15 years told The News Tribune on Friday that he’d never seen signs of abuse or neglect at the ranch.
“That guy just absolutely loves those horses,” Dr. David Best said.
Best said he has seen one horse that is thinner than the others but pointed out the animal is nearly 35 years old. Older horses sometimes have trouble keeping on weight, he said.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Best said. “I was just dumbfounded when he called me and told me what happened.”
The county moved to seize the animals after receiving word from a federal agency conducting a separate investigation that the horses were being neglected, Anderson said.
Hester said there were alternatives to confiscating the animals, including asking the man to clean his barns.
“Frankly, it sounds like the county has more than overreacted,” he said.