Would-be Horse Advocates Charged with Trespassing

Two Ohio women are facing criminal charges after allegedly trespassing onto private property to check on horses they suspected were being maltreated.

Scioto County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Todd Miller said that on Aug. 24, Betty Davison and Tonia Jenkins visited the property where maltreated horses were rumored to reside. The women approached the house on the property and knocked on the door in an attempt to talk with the horses' owner; however, a teenager alone in the house at the time was afraid to open the door to them, Miller said. The women then allegedly entered a barn on the property and began photographing the horses inside, Miller said. Afterward, the pair contacted the Scioto Sheriff's Department to investigate the horses' condition.

The investigation revealed that two of the three horses residing on the property were in good condition with appropriate access to food and water, Miller relayed. A veterinarian determined that a 16-year-old horse also residing on the property had a cardiac condition, but was not being maltreated. As a result, authorities filed no animal cruelty charges against the horses' owner.

However, on Oct. 1 Davison and Jenkins were charged with criminal trespass. Miller said the criminal charges against the women stem from their allegedly entering the barn and photographing the horses without the owner's permission. If convicted each of the women could face multiple penalties including fines and jail time, he said. The case remains pending. 

Jenkins was not available for comment. However Davison said that the trespassing charges are unfounded.

"We have had many calls about these horses for a long time, so under state statute we had probable cause (to enter the property)," Davison said.

She also said that the allegedly maltreated horse was  in plain view when she photographed it.

"The barn did not have a door on it, you could see right in; I could see the skinny horse inside," she said.

Miller said animal welfare advocates are frequently tempted to enter private property in order to help an allegedly maltreated animal. However, he warns against entering private property without the owner's permission for any reason. Instead, he advises anyone who suspects mistreatment of animals to contact local law enforcement or their local humane society or other animal welfare agency.

"Don't take the law into your own hands," Miller said. "Let us do our jobs."

Miller also advises against photographing animals unless they are located in plain view and are visible from a road or other public venue.

"If the horses had been in a field next to a road and (Davison and Jenkins) were taking pictures from the street, they would not have been trespassing," Miller said.

Finally, Miller advises that anyone who enters private property without the owner's permission risks more than just criminal prosecution.

"The criminal charges are not the worst of it," Miller said. "When someone enters private property without permission, especially after dark, you never know what could happen."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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