A Union Bridge woman accused of committing animal cruelty to seven horses agreed to a plea deal Wednesday in which she will undergo five years of probation and not be permitted to possess equine animals during that time.
Deborah C. Osborn, 53, pleaded not guilty on seven counts and agreed not to dispute the prosecutor’s statement of facts regarding the case. A plea of not guilty under an agreed statement of facts is functionally a guilty plea, according to case law.
The Hon. Thomas F. Stansfield sentenced Osborn to two years with all suspended for aggravated animal cruelty and 90 days each, with all suspended, for six counts of animal cruelty. The counts involve inflicting unnecessary pain and suffering, and failing to provide veterinary care, sufficient food, and proper space.
The aggravated cruelty charge is a felony that comes with a maximum penalty of up to three years incarceration and a $5,000 fine, whereas the six misdemeanors carried a max of 90 days incarceration and $1,000 in fines.
As part of the plea agreement, the state did not seek to prosecute the remaining 32 counts of animal cruelty. Osborn was indicted July 27.
Osborn will be on probation for five years, the first three of which will be supervised. As part of the terms, Carroll County animal control may inspect her property and any animals the first three years of probation.
The state sought a sentence of two years with all but one suspended. Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Melissa Hockensmith did not offer an opinion on the outcome other than saying it was the judge’s decision. Osborn’s attorneys could not be reached for comment.
According to the statement of facts read by Hockensmith in Carroll County Circuit Court on Wednesday afternoon, seven horses with a slew of hoof issues were found in stalls with manure as high as two feet in the 500 block of Bucher John Road on May 23. A veterinarian recommended two of the horses, Cinderella and Tia, be euthanized, and they were, Hockensmith said.
The other horses were sent to Days End Farm Horse Rescue, to which Osborn was sentenced to pay about $14,200 for their care. Their names are Pepper, Shane, Cal, Shotzee and Kat, Hockensmith read.
“It was evident that the horses had not been out of the stalls in quite some time, years, for some,” Hockensmith read from the statement.
It took four adults to pry the stall doors loose, Hockensmith read.
A tipster alerted Carroll County animal control to the situation, alleging there were skinny horses living in poor conditions at the farm, Hockensmith said. The animal control officer met Osborn on the 121-acre dairy farm and, when they found the horses Osborn was responsible for, asked her how they got to be in such condition.
“They are livestock. I’ll get to them when I get to them,” Osborn told the officer, according to the statement read by Hockensmith.
Osborn also said she was suffering financially as several cows had died and some were born deformed, Hockensmith read.
The hay in the barn was “caramelized," which means it went bad and had no nutritional value, Hockensmith said. Several horses suffered health issues such as dermatitis, heart murmurs, thrush, ringworm and overgrown hooves, Hockensmith read.
Bone fused in Tia’s foot, a bone penetrated the sole of Cinderella’s foot, Kat was wearing a blanket in 80-plus-degree heat, Pepper’s hooves curled, Shane’s hooves were also overgrown, Cal’s hoof folded in on itself, and Shotzee’s hooves were overgrown with shoes still on them, according to the statement — to name some of their health complications.
A farrier said they had last been to Osborn’s farm July 27, 2018, when they cut eight inches off Shotzee’s hooves, Hockensmith read. A veterinarian said they had last been to the farm July 24, 2018, to tend to the cows and only saw one horse, Hockensmith read.
Osborn agreed to the terms of her plea agreement and said she understood them, but did not offer additional comment.