Texas Horse Cruelty Case Motivates Legislative Change

A 22-year-old Texas man will serve nine months in jail for torturing and killing a yearling filly named Cowboy Chic in her pasture last October.

A jury convicted Kenneth Ryan Peterson of animal cruelty and felony criminal mischief in 11 minutes of deliberation.

This case and a series of other attacks on Texas horses in 2005 and 2006 motivated a legislative proposal to stiffen penalties for abuse of horses, in part by reclassifying them from livestock to companion animals. The proposed law passed, but not as activists intended.

"The agriculture lobby made it clear they would kill the bill entirely before they would let horses be reclassified," explained Susan Hendrix, vice president of the Texas Humane Legislation Network.

Horses do benefit from the new law, as it now prohibits the torture of livestock animals. It cannot be applied to Peterson's case, although a veterinary expert testified that it is likely Cowboy Chic suffered.

In a statement that appeared on Texas Horse Talk Web site, Phelps expressed satisfaction with the plea agreement: "A prosecutor's duty is to seek justice. Sometimes that means we have to exercise our discretion to do what is best for our community. The best thing for our community, Darla, and Peterson himself, was for there to be both prison time and significant supervision and conditions of probation."

As part of a plea bargain, Peterson will serve nine months in jail, five years of probation, and pay $10,000 to the filly's owner, Darla McCrady.

Peterson could have been sentenced up to two years in prison, but at his release he would not have been required to receive supervision or counseling. He also would not have been required to pay restitution for the loss of the Palomino filly, said Brazos County First Assistant District Attorney Shane Phelps.

As a condition of the agreement, Peterson was required to waive all of his appeals.

About the Author

Judith Lee

Judith Lee is a freelance health care writer who has written for a number of medical and health care journals and health care companies. As a long-time equestrian and horse owner, she has a particular interest in equine health care. She also operates an equestrian education program, Riding for Fun, geared toward adult beginners and returning riders.

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