The owner of horses removed from a Graham farm by authorities who said the animals were living in unhealthy surroundings was charged today with 10 counts of animal cruelty.
Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist said John Diller, 69, failed to properly care for his horses.
“We are holding the owner accountable for cruelty to the animals,” said Lindquist.
Lindquist also revealed that the seizure of the horses by the county’s Animal Control officers was connected to a federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) investigation.
He said the agent was executing a federal search warrant at the defendant’s 99-acre property when he saw more than three dozen horses living in what authorities later described as deplorable conditions. The agent contacted Animal Control, whose officers went to the site and and found 39 horses, including 10 stallions, housed in three barns and outdoor paddocks.
The stalls had excessive accumulations of feces and urine, and it appeared that the horses weren’t allowed outside, Lindquist said. He said the paddocks had shelters but contained piles of manure one to two feet high. Most of the horses were underweight, had poor muscle tone, and their hooves were overgrown and cracked, according to authorities.
The horses were taken to Frontier Park, a county-operated facility in Graham, for care and medical treatment. Officials said several of the horses had severe and painful medical conditions due to neglect. Eight of the animals have been humanely euthanized – five due to medical conditions and because of dangerous behavior, officials reported.
Diller has denied that the horses were abused.
Eleven of them were returned to Diller by a Pierce County District Court judge’s order following a court hearing Nov. 9. Diller had requested that all of the animals be returned.
(Read more in the Dec. 19 print edition of The Dispatch)