Charges Filed in 40-Horse Seizure Case in Virginia

Charges Filed in 40-Horse Seizure Case in Virginia

In February, the Nattoway County Sheriff's Department seized 40 allegedly maltreated horses.

Photo: Courtesy of the Commonwealth Attorney's Office, Nottoway County, Virginia

A Virginia grand jury has indicted a farm operator, her daughter, and her son in connection with the seizure of 40 horses in Nottoway County earlier this year.

In February, the Nattoway County Sheriff's Department seized 40 allegedly maltreated horses from a farm operated by Robin Vince and her daughter Rhiannan Vitiello. Four horse carcasses were also found in the property. The women were each charged with 40 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty for the live horses and four counts of felony animal cruelty for each of the dead horses.

Nottoway County Commonwealth Attorney Terry Royall said the felony charges were placed because both women had been convicted of animal cruelty during the past five years.

“Robin Vince was convicted of one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty in Nottoway County in 2014, and Rhiannan Vitiello was convicted of four counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty in Charles City County in 2012,” Royall said in a written statement.

Vince's son, Edward Peterson, Jr., was also charged with 44 misdemeanor animal cruelty counts connection with the 40 live horses and the four dead animals.

Photo: Courtesy of the Commonwealth Attorney's Office, Nottoway County, Virginia

“The felonies for the four dead horses that Vince and Vitiello both face are Class 6 felonies, which carry a maximum of 5 years’ incarceration and up to a $2,500 fine,” Royall's statement said. “The remaining charges against Vince and Vitiello, as well as all of the charges against Peterson, are Class 1 misdemeanors, which carry a maximum of 12 months’ incarceration and up to a $2,500 fine.”

In addition to the Nottoway County charges, Vitiello, her sister Allura Peterson, and Peterson's father Edward Peterson, Sr., also face animal cruelty charges in Charles County, Virginia, Royall's statement said. Those charges stem from a 20-horse seizure that took place just one week before the one in Nottoway County.

While the charges are pending, civil hearings upheld the Nattoway County seizure and the ordered the horses forfeited to the county. The horses were subsequently signed over to several Virginia humane organizations which are in the process of placing them in adoptive homes.

Vince, Vitiello, and Peterson, Jr. are slated to appear in court for arraignment on the Nattoway County charges next week.

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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