Monday, November 23, 2015

Judge rules authorities justifiably seized sick horses from Anne Shumate

VIRGINIA -- Law enforcement justifiably seized 10 malnourished, emaciated and sick horses last month from the Somerset farm of Anne Shumate, general district court Judge Edward Carpenter found Wednesday following a three-hour hearing at which two veterinarians described the animals’ ailments and conditions, which included “chronic starvation.”
“I don’t think there is any question that there was a failure to provide adequate care,” Carpenter said. “They simply were at death’s door. If they hadn’t been abandoned, they were very close to it.”

Orange-based defense attorney Thomas Purcell, in hearing the ruling, said it was very likely his client would appeal the decision.

Shumate, 57, remained stone-faced and facing forward for the entire hearing at which one woman, part of a group of more than a dozen in the local equestrian community, cried and was brought a tissue by a bailiff as graphic details of the horses’ conditions were heard.

Purcell advised the court early on that his client’s legal last name is her maiden name and that her property was not Peaceable Farm, but Glen Valley Farm. Peaceable Farm refers to the now-defunct horse rescue organization she ran with her ex-husband, Anthony Goland.

Orange County Commonwealth’s Attorney Diana Wheeler told the court that former board members of the nonprofit group “vehemently denied” that they had any interest in the case against Shumate and that they didn’t want to be notified of future hearings in the pending animal cruelty criminal case against her.

Orange County Chief Animal Control Officer Patricia Dahl testified that she first visited Glen Valley Farm back in February and she spoke with Shumate and observed that a farm manager was actively feeding and watering the horses at the time.

At that time, Dahl said she discussed with Shumate the possibility of divesting some of the horses. Dahl returned again in May, following another report of neglected animals, but was denied access by the farm manager, she testified.

The animal control officer returned again Oct. 19 with a warrant to search the property, at which time more than 100 animals were voluntarily surrendered and many more were found dead in the house and various outbuildings.

According to Purcell, Shumate was living in her car. Authorities say there was no water on the property and described the situation as one of “animal hoarding.”

“There was an overwhelming amount of horses in various stages of starvation,” Dahl said, describing the farm as having more than 100 acres.

Dr. Virginia DeChant, a veterinarian at Keswick Equine Clinic, testified that she spent three days on the farm examining the horses, rating each one on an established equestrian scale based on body condition with 1 being emaciated, 5 being ideal and 9 being obese. The horses were tagged with green, yellow or red indicators — red meaning they were critical and needed immediate medical care.

“All 10 of these horses were red-taped,” DeChant testified.

So emaciated were the horses that they had started feeding on their own muscle, she said. One foal received the highest body condition rating — a 3 — while the rest were rated at 2.5 or below. DeChant rated three of the horses at 0.5.

Dr. Lauren Gallapsy, of Old Dominion Equine in Keswick, examined the same 10 horses on Oct. 23, and reached similar medical conclusions. She testified that half had heart murmurs, a symptom of chronic starvation, and one had significant heart disease. Gallapsy, who more extensively examined and treated the horses once they were removed from the farm, testified to such conditions as fever, diarrhea, ringworm, intestinal parasites, anemia, skin disease and poor dental and hoof health.

The veterinarian, a University of Virginia alumna, said that she was familiar with several of the horses and had known them prior to being purchased by Shumate.

“All of these animals were at a significant risk of death,” she testified. “It was upsetting to me to examine these horses.”

Purcell did not put forward any defense evidence and said they did not necessarily dispute the commonwealth’s evidence, but that he felt the prosecution had not met its burden of proof justifying legal seizure of the horses. He said animal control improperly set the standard for seizure.

“Incompetent evidence — that’s our argument,” Purcell said.

Another hearing in the civil case was set for Nov. 25 to determine disposition of the 10 horses now being housed and cared for at three area farms.

Wheeler requested that the court order Shumate to cover “the reasonable expenses” associated with caring for the horses, now being borne by the county. That matter, and setting a date in the criminal case against Shumate, will also be handled at next week’s hearing. The defendant faces 27 charges of animal cruelty.

Lawyer Timothy J. Heaphy, representing Shumate’s ex-husband Anthony Goland, said in a statement Wednesday that the couple was married for five years before divorcing in 2014 at which time Mr. Goland terminated all involvement with Peaceable Farm and resigned as a board member of the animal rescue nonprofit.

Heaphy said Goland has had no contact with Shumate since.

“Since June 2014, Mr. Goland has voluntarily provided significant funds to [Shumate] both for her personal use and in support of the animals,” the lawyer said.

Heaphy said that to his client’s knowledge, the Peaceable Farm board dissolved in the middle of last year and that all of its former board members previously resigned. He added that none of the board members “received compensation of any sort at any time, and they all donated their time.”

(Daily Progress - ‎Nov 20, 2015‎)


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