Court Date for Owner of Horses in Illinois Trailer Accident

The former owner of 59 horses involved in a semitrailer rollover accident last October in Wadsworth, Ill., is slated to appear in Lake County Circuit Court on March 3 according to a spokesperson for the Lake County, Ill., County Clerk.

Keith O. Tongen, 49, of Minnesota faces four Class A misdemeanor animal cruelty charges and one Class B misdemeanor animal owner duties violation charge. According to Lake County Sheriff's Department spokesman Sgt. Christopher Thompson, each animal cruelty charge carries penalties of one year on prison and $1,000 in fines. The animal owner duties violation carries a penalty of six months in the Lake County Jail.

The accident occurred Oct. 27 when a truck hauling 59 draft horses in a double-decker trailer from Indiana through Wadsworth, Ill. to Minnesota overturned. A total of 17 horses perished, either on the scene or within days of the event due to accident-related injuries. The remaining surviving horses were adopted.

In advance of the court hearing, Donna Ewing, president of the Hooved Animal Rescue and Protection Society, where the injured horses resided after the incident, is rallying local horse enthusiasts to attend the proceedings.

"We want to get the judge's attention on this," Ewing said.

Meanwhile, legislation that would prohibit horse transport via double-decker trailers in the state is slated for a Feb. 21 hearing by the Illinois House of Representatives' Drivers Education and Safety Committee.

For more on the accident see Agriculture Officials Join Illinois Trailer Accident Investigation and Some Illinois Trailer Accident Survivors Moved to New Homes. For more on the proposed legislation see Trailer Accident: Proposed Law Would Ban Illinois Double-Deckers.

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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