Saturday, December 10, 2016

Utah: Trial set for Freeman Yoder, 39, accused of dragging, torturing horse

UTAH -- An April animal cruelty trial has been scheduled for a former employee of a Juab County lavender farm who allegedly tied a horse to a truck and repeatedly dragged it across the ground by its head and neck.

Freeman A. Yoder, 39, of Nephi, was charged in April with one count of aggravated cruelty to an animal, a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

Yoder's two-day trial is set to begin April 26.

Yoder, who was a horse trainer at Young Living Lavender Farm in Mona, on April 1, tied a young draft horse to a truck with a chain and drove faster and faster until the animal fell, according to charging documents.

Yoder continued driving, dragging the horse on the ground by its head and neck, charges state.

Yoder stopped the truck and got the horse back on its feet, then allegedly drove some more. The horse fell again and hit its head on the back the truck, denting the vehicle, charges state.

Once again, Yoder allegedly got the horse up and again drove until it fell, charges state. He eventually stopped and tried to force the animal to stand again, but was unsuccessful.

Following a June preliminary hearing, Judge Jennifer Brown ordered Yoder to stand trial.

Freeman Yoder leading this team of horses

But Yoder's defense attorney filed a motion to quash the bindover and dismiss the case, claiming that training activities were meant to be exceptions to the state's animal cruelty statute, so long as "the methods used are in accordance with accepted animal husbandry practices or customary farming practices."

The judge, however, wrote in a ruling issued last month that Yoder's alleged actions did conform with the criminal statute.

Defense attorney Blake Atkin had conceded in his motion to dismiss that while the horse-breaking methods Yoder was using were "perhaps excessive, perhaps mingled with anger, perhaps carried out in a way some other people or other trainers would not have done it," his actions did not rise to animal cruelty.

Atkin argued that the statute requires a showing of "extreme pain" or "exceptional depravity" to establish guilt, "not mere excess in angry response to a young horse's recalcitrance."

Atkin wrote that the "minor abrasions" to the horse were so minimal they were treated with "the equivalent of aspirin."

Vet Tech student, Nicole Mellor, with Champion 
Percheron and Trainer, Freeman Yoder
(photo from a newspaper article)

But a veterinarian who treated the horse observed it had difficulty moving its head and neck from one side to the other, was lame in its left back leg and had injuries to its "left hip, her left stifle, left shoulder and the lower portion of the leg, the cannon bone, had hair removed off of it," according to prosecutors.

The vet also observed missing hair from "the inside of the right limb" as well as "abrasions" and "some mild swelling," prosecutors wrote in their motion opposing dismissal of the case.

Jamie Kaneko, who handles public relations for Young Living Lavender Farm, said Friday that the horse "has fully recovered from her injuries" and is being "closely monitored by trained staff, ensuring she gets the care she needs."

Kaneko said that following the alleged abuse of the horse, Yoder was immediately terminated.

(Salt Lake Tribune - Dec 9, 2016)


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