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Animal Cruelty Case Draws Response From Across Country

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ERWIN, N.C. — A case of animal cruelty, in which authorities suspect four girls set a horse's tail on fire, is drawing reaction from across the United States.

Harnett County detectives are questioning the girls, all under the age of 15, for allegedly burning the tail of a 2-year-old registered spotted saddle horse, Dixie, while her owner was away on vacation last weekend.

One woman in California offered to send the tail hair from her horse that passed away to Dixie for a transplant. It is offers such as this one that give Vonda Hamilton hope that her horse can survive.

At her Harnett County


, Hamilton says she is spending about six hours every day providing care to the horse's injuries. With every wiggle of Dixie's tail, Hamilton says she is encouraged.

"I'm hoping that's a good sign," Hamilton said.

WRAL viewers and horse lovers around the state who heard about Dixie have also offered their support and help. Barbara Thomason, a horse lover from Angier, says she does not want Hamilton to go through Dixie's care alone.

"It's just unreal," says Thomason, a complete stranger doing work around the stables to help out Hamilton.

"I am out here cleaning buckets and troughs because (Hamilton's) got other horses she's had to let go to tend to the sick horse," Thomason said. "I'm willing to do that if that gives her a little bit of peace of mind and comfort."

Investigators think the girls may have used hair spray or perfume to start the fire.

"It's so malicious. I don't know how you can explain it," said Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins.

Rollins says the juvenile suspects will be charged with animal cruelty, which is a felony. His department is urging the district attorney's office not to make a plea deal.

Dixie's veterinarian says the animal's situation is very serious and that she has only a 60 percent chance of surviving. The tail will likely have to be amputated.

"Flies are bothering her bad," Hamilton said.

Even without the horse's ability to swat flies, Hamilton says she does not want to put the animal to sleep.

"Doesn't she look to you like she wants to live? She looks to me like she wants to live," Hamilton said. "She's eating and she's drinking and taking all her medicine like a big girl."

Hamilton is now concerned about the cost of Dixie's medical care. She was relying on the $4,500 she expected to receive this week from the sale of the horse.

The Champagne Horse Breeders' & Owners' Association is accepting donations via its

Web site


With a little more information, investigators hope to firm up the case and make arrests. The Harnett County Sheriff's Office is offering a $250 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Deputies have posted fliers with the reward amount at local schools around the stables with hopes that students with any information will come forward. Anyone with information should call

(910) 893-9111


(910) 893-7115



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