UPDATE: The Payette Police Department have charged Shannon Pearce with four counts of animal abuse about the four dead horses. Each count can potentially carry a penalty of 1 year in jail and a $1000 fine. Pearce is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The Payette County Sheriff’s Office and Payette City Police Department are investigating a case of four horses found dead in a pasture Sunday evening.
After receiving a complaint of possible animal abuse, deputies went to the property near Hurd Lane about 8 p.m. Sunday. There, they found the four dead horses and a bone-dry water trough.
"At this point what we are looking at, we are going to investigate this as an animal abuse case," said Payette Police Chief Mark Clark.
A neighbor found two of the horses dead and was there when two others took their final breath; Ted McGourty believes these horses were neglected.
"It made me want to get sick," said McGourty. "All of the neighbors in this area are disgusted with how poorly he (the owner) took care of the animals."
We also received a statement from the family who owns the horses.
“We’re as devastated as anyone. We raised those horses since birth,” said Autumn Aileen, who tells us her father owns the horses and the Colt .45 Horse Ranch. The horses bore the ranch’s brand.
“We checked on those horses every day,” Aileen said.
She explained her father had set up “a drip system” to keep water in the trough, with a hose running from a nearby pump house to the trough.
She said her family had to leave town to attend a funeral in Nampa and were gone both Friday and Saturday. When they returned late Sunday, they found the horses dead and the trough dry. “We found the pump had been shut off, the hose had been removed from the trough, and coiled up by the pump house,” Aileen stated.
She estimated the horses were ten to fifteen years old.
What’s more, “We’ve been receiving threatening e-mails and phone calls,” she said. “One e-mail told us the ‘same thing’ was going to happen to us.” –- likely referring to horses being left without water.
“We’ve been operating our ranch here in the Treasure Valley for forty years. We know a horse cannot last more than a few days without water, especially with (the recent) hot temperatures,” she said.
“We’re working with the owner of the pasture, trying to find out who did this,” Aileen stated.
“We’re getting the same information (about the hose being removed and the pump shut off),” said Payette Police Chief Mark Clark. “However, we have reason to believe that the owner had not checked on the horses in over a week. We’re also looking to whether there were issues with the watering system.”
Payette County Sheriff’s Office deputies initially responded to the scene, but “it has since been determined that this case occurred within the city limits of Payette. Payette County Sheriff’s Office is coordinating the investigation with the Payette City Police Department and their Prosecuting Attorney,” said Payette County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Andy Creech.
Payette City Police Department is now the lead agency investigating the case and they say they will seek charges of animal cruelty if they find that there was neglect.