Local News

Animal Cruelty Officers Seize Six Horses From Pitt County Farm

Posted May 5, 2005 7:10 a.m. EDT

— Six horses, including five Clydesdales, were seized from a Bethel farm after cruelty investigators found them underweight with ribs and hip bones showing under their skin.

The animals were found in a field of dirt and buttercups, a plant poisonous to horses, cruelty investigators said.

On Wednesday, a Pitt County animal cruelty investigator, Bobbie Parsons, swore out a warrant for the arrest of the owner, Thomas L. Zelaney of Tarboro. The magistrate also issued an order to seize the horses, which Parsons and other volunteers did later in the day.

Warrants charging Zelaney, 56, with six counts of cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor, have been issued but not served. Deputy G.N. Watson said he has been in touch with Zelaney and expected him to turn himself in.

Zelaney has an unlisted telephone number and could not be reached for comment.

Members of the United States Equine Rescue League, a volunteer group that shelters and rehabilitates equines seized by law enforcement or surrendered by neglectful or abusive owners, assisted.

The volunteers and two Pitt County deputies loaded the horses into trailers to be taken for treatment. When the horses are well enough, they will be put up for adoption, said Krisann Blackwell, director of the central coastal region of the Equine Rescue League.

Clydesdales typically weigh between 1,700 and 2,000 pounds; volunteers estimated those seized Tuesday weighed about 1,000 pounds.

If convicted, the court could order Zelaney to pay restitution to the Equine Rescue League for the cost of nursing the animals back to health.

In the past three weeks, the Equine Rescue League has taken 21 horses it says were abused. In 2004, it took over custody of 127 horses.

According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, horses are a $500 million industry in the state, which has over 132,000 horses. Guilford County has the highest population 5,600 horses. Wake County has the fourth highest horse population.