Coryell County man charged with 14 counts of cruelty to livestock
Special to the Leader-Press
A Coryell County man was jailed Thursday, August 17, facing 14 counts of Cruelty to Livestock Animals.
Colton Hale, 34, is charged with abandoning 14 horses after a property owner called the Coryell County Sheriff’s Office to report that the horses’ owners had not been seen since May 2 and she could not afford to care for the horses.
The property owner who initially called the Sheriff’s Office on the evening of August 3, said three of the horses had died and she did not want any additional deaths, but she could not afford to feed the animals and the horses’ owners were not replying to her attempts at contact.
The CCSO Livestock Deputy met with the property owner on the morning of August 4 to look at the horses. At the property near Topsey, the deputy observed “several round bale feeders on the property that were empty,” as well as “three troughs filled with water and no grass anywhere on the property.” There also was no hay observed. Walking through the property, the deputy observed a large brown horse carcass on the north side of the house. The property owner also advised the deputy there were two other horse carcasses in the northwest pasture.
The 11 surviving horses were in “bad shape,” with bones seen protruding from their heads, ribs, and hips.
Based on the exigent circumstances of the horses’ living conditions and body conditions, the inability to contact the animals’ owners and the property owner’s inability to properly care for the horses, the property owner released the horses to the Sheriff’s Office for safekeeping.
The 11 surviving horses were removed from the property and taken into Sheriff’s Office custody on August 5.
The deputy attempted multiple times to contact the owners of the horses with no success.
On August 8, a local veterinarian examined the 11 surviving horses and assigned each a Body Condition Score (BCS). The BCS System is a scale ranging from 1-9 out of 9 with the average or ideal horse weight as a 5 out of 9. Thinner horses score lower while fatter horses score higher than 5. The veterinarian found the horses to be “very thin, exhibiting signs of malnourishment.” He further stated that he would consider two of the horses to be emaciated and scored each of them a 1/9.
Based off the deputy’s observations and the veterinarian’s assessment, which established Probable Cause, the Coryell County Sheriff’s Office issued 14 arrest warrants for Hale alleging Cruelty to Livestock Animals (Abandonment - Failure to provide necessary food, water, or care). Each charge is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine up to $4,000.
Hale was taken into custody Thursday in Gatesville and jailed on bonds totaling $35,000. He was released on bond from the Coryell County Jail on Saturday, August 19.
The investigation into this matter is ongoing and additional arrests are anticipated.
“These horses were in a terrible situation, and I am happy they have been removed and are receiving the care and attention they deserve,” Coryell County Sheriff Scott A. Williams said. “Sometimes the ideas of neglect or cruelty to animals can be subjective, but this is an apparent case of cruelty through abandonment when the owners made the decision to stop providing even basic care for these horses. We have zero-tolerance for cruelty to animals, whether they be livestock or pets, in Coryell County and I think this situation illustrates that. Our only hope is that these animals continue to improve and can live out their lives in loving, caring homes.”