Rescue Operator Seeks Hearing to Retain Custody of Seized Horses

An attorney for a Colorado woman whose horses were seized by Larimer County authorities is seeking a bond hearing to recover custody of the animals.

The seizure took place on Dec. 29 when Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden ordered the removal of 27 animals, including 16 allegedly malnourished horses, from the Animal Angels Horse Rescue ranch operated by Alesha Matchett.

In addition to the horses, ponies, and donkeys, county authorities seized five llamas, five pygmy goats, and a pig.

On Jan. 8, attorney Jennifer Reba Thomaidis filed a petition for a bond hearing in Larimer County court requesting that Matchett regain custody of the 16 horses currently being held at the county fairgrounds by the Larimer County Sheriff's Department.

The hearing request came in advance of any criminal charges being made in the case.

"I went to the court to enter a case regarding the charges," Thomaidis said, "but I discovered no charges had been filed and, therefore, there was no case."

Under Colorado statute, Matchett had 10 days to request a hearing to post a bond to cover costs of 30 days' care and feeding of animals removed from their owners' custody due to emergency, neglect, or cruelty conditions. Bond in the Matchett case is $9,700 Thomaidis said.

"Basically, (the request) buys time," explained Larimer County Sheriff's Department Investigator Rita Servin. "It simply means we cannot dispose of the animals."

Matchett said that an unnamed benefactor from Evergreen, Colo., came forward to fund the bond.

But Servin said a bond hearing has nothing to do with the criminal charges Matchett still faces.

"I'm filing 12 criminal counts of animal cruelty on Jan. 9 for all animals with a body condition rating of two or less," Servin said. "The bond request just means she has two legal avenues to answer to."

According to Servin the charges are Class 1 misdemeanors with each count carrying minimum penalties of six month imprisonment and/or $500 fines, and maximum penalties of 18 month imprisonment and/or $1,500 fines.

Colorado Horse Rescue executive director Hildy Armour said the seizure culminated years of humane agencies' concerns about Matchett's operation.

"It's not in the horse's best interest," Armour said of the bond hearing petition.

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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