Impounded Georgia Horses: Defendant Gets 5 Years, Fines

Superior Court Senior Judge Ben Miller sentenced Roger Lee Prater of Pike County, Ga., to five years after the defendant pled guilty to 31 counts of animal cruelty. Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin declared an emergency on Prater's farm last February and impounded 99 horses and other animals.

Prater will serve the first 120 days of the 60-month sentence in home confinement, except for tending the farm and homeplace and transporting his wife to the doctor.

"I believe that he chose to accept the conditions rather than continue to pursue the matter through the courts, because he knew that the people in Pike County would not condone this kind of treatment to animals," Irvin said. "I would like to commend the District Attorney and the Pike County Sheriff for their commitment to prosecution of this criminal animal cruelty case. I am also pleased that Judge Miller issued monetary penalties and restitution to our department."

The Georgia Department of Agriculture can only bring civil action--the charging and prosecution of criminal animal cruelty must be pursued by local law enforcement and officers of the court.

Other stipulations in the plea agreement included:

  • a $10,000 fine;
  • a $25,000 restitution fee to the Georgia Department of Agriculture for care of the impounded animals;
  • surrender of the $21,356 in escrow for the impounded animals previously sold;
  • that the department holds a public auction in 30 days of the remaining 24 horses and two foals and retain the proceeds from the auction.

Prater also must perform 100 hours of community service.

"In addition to the sheriff department and the district attorney personnel, we are very grateful for the many volunteers who helped move and take care of these animals since February 1," Irvin said. "The many people who stepped up and bought the rehabilitated animals to give them a home and the monetary and material donations all are responsible for helping my staff to be able to bring these horses back to good health."

Irvin also personally thanked Horsetown Western Stores for the use of its private stables for almost eight weeks and to the Georgia Equine Rescue League for providing volunteers, feed, and raising money to assist the Department of Agriculture in the recovery of the horses.

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