Trial Postponed in California Neglect Case

The 35 horses removed from James DeNoyer's northwestern California ranch late last year have new homes, but the case is far from closed. 


The malnourished horses were seized in December 2005 following a six-month investigation. Paul Michelsen, DVM, and Mike Witt, DVM, of Michelsen and Witt Large Animal Practice in Redwood Valley, treated the horses immediately following their removal from the property. Michelsen reported many horses having a body condition score of 1 (emaciated), with one mare scoring a 0.5. 


Courtesy Roni McFadden

One example of the successfully recovered horses.


The horses were sold via silent auction in early April, however, that event added considerable controversy to the case because DeNoyer's brother-in-law, Mark Scripter, purchased eight of the horses. Mendocino County officials responded to the public outcry, explaining that there was no evidence that DeNoyer had masterminded the sale, according to The Press Democrat, a Santa Rosa and Sonoma-area newspaper.


DeNoyer's trial was postponed from an original date in July to Oct. 10 because of a change in representation.


Deputy District Attorney Katherine Houston says that DeNoyer faces 36 counts of felony animal neglect- one for each of the rescued horses, as well as one for a mare that died on the property.


 "Conviction for this offense requires only criminal negligence, not intent to harm or kill," says Houston. "That makes it easier to prove; I only have to show that Denoyer was responsible for the horses and that his act or omission was inherently dangerous to their lives."


Under California law, DeNoyer could face up to 26 years in state prison if convicted on all counts. While Houston doubts the judge would impose the full sentence, she does expect him to serve a portion of time if convicted.


Michelsen and Witt have continued to treat many of horses and report that they have returned to full health.


 "To my knowledge they're all doing great," says Witt. "When they left the fairground they were all in good shape and had made remarkable recoveries. The volunteers in Mendocino County just really did a great job"


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About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.

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