Judge grants ownership of 33 seized horses to King William

aluck@tidewaterreview.com

Thirty-three horses that were seized from Cassy Newell-Reed’s property Jan. 24 are now owned by King William County.

Judge Barbara Gaden ordered ownership be transferred to King William after a two-day seizure hearing which ended after it was continued on Tuesday in King William General District Court.

Gaden, a retired Richmond General District Court judge, found that Newell-Reed and her husband Harry Reed III cruelly treated, neglected and did not give adequate care to the horses.

Newell-Reed is banned from owning horses for five years, Reed for two years.

The seizure occurred after an investigation by Spotslyvania County Sheriff’s Office brought on by mutual aid agreement for the investigation, in which King William County Sheriff’s Office requested Spotslyvania’s assistance by leading the investigation.

Senior Deputy Richard Samuels with the Spotslyvania County Sheriff’s Office and Animal Control testified on Thursday that he did surveillance Dec. 26 and Jan. 19 and found probable cause for the Jan. 24 search/seizure warrant, as the horses appeared to be thin and there was little to no food seen out in the field.

The Animal Law Unit for the Virginia Attorney General’s Office then got involved with the investigation and seizure.

Assistant state veterinarians with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Dr. Jodi Collins and Dr. Abby Sage, were on the scene of the seizure, doing forensic exams of all 33 horses, along with the assistance of two private vets.

Both Collins and Sage assisted in the 2016 seizure of 42 horses from Newell-Reed’s property.

The Henneke Body Condition Scoring System is used in the horse industry to determine the amount of fat, visible and touchable, on a horse. The scores range from one to nine, nine being overweight and one being emaciated, according to Collins.

Collins and Sage testified on behalf of the commonwealth and special prosecutor Michelle Welch, senior assistant attorney general and director of the Animal Law Unit for the Virginia Attorney General’s Office.

Collins and Sage testified that 22 out of 33 horses, or 67 percent, were underweight, with a body condition score of three or less, which is thin to emaciated.

One horse was found at a score of one out of nine, emaciated and one at a one and a half, between emaciated and very thin, Collins testified.

Collins and Sage also testified that 18 out of the 33 horses did not have access to food and needed farrier work, care of horses’ hooves. A fair number of the horses, five out of six of the stool samples taken, were found to have parasites.

Several of the horses had rain rot on their bodies, a skin condition caused by wet and humid weather conditions and poor grooming and hygiene. One of the horses was also reported to have lice, Collins testified.

Two of the horses also were reported without water and several tried to eat straw and manure, signs of systematic starvation, Collins testified.

Collins was shown photos of several horses that were taken after the seizure on Feb. 6 by Deputy Samuels. Collins testified the horses looked improved and were gaining good amounts of weight.

No combination of hay, feed or beet pulp shreds found on Newell-Reed’s property were enough for 33 horses to maintain their current conditions and the hay, which was sent off for testing, was found to be of poor quality, according to preliminary testing results, Sage testified.

In the hearing Tuesday, Deborah Childress and Patricia Cohen-Kinlaw testified on behalf of Newell-Reed.

Childress, owns horses herself and has been friends with Newell-Reed for a few years, but has recently gotten closer to Newell-Reed in their friendship.

Childress testified that she has gone with Newell-Reed to buy hay from Smithfield Farms several times, although the hay season has been bad due to the wet weather.

Childress herself buys large quantities of hay for her two horses, whereas Newell-Reed buys smaller quantities and when needed, Childress testified.

During cross-examiniation, Welch asked Childress if Newell-Reed was struggling financially, Childress said she knew Newell-Reed has “tight finances.”

Kinlaw, met Newell-Reed seven or eight years ago when Newell-Reed moved to Virginia from New York and worked and lived on her farm, helping her care for her horses.

Kinlaw took three of her horses to Newell-Reed for training and testified that she thought they looked more muscular and fit when she visited the week before the seizure.

Welch asked Kinlaw if any of the horses looked thin, Kinlaw said “not mine.”

During her testimony, Newell-Reed said she’s been working with horses for 45 years, has been working on training horses and has one semester left in an online horse nutrition program.

She testified that four of the horses seized were not hers and that some were rescued from being slaughtered three to four years ago.

Newell-Reed testified that the local hay season has been “bad” because of wet weather and that she typically buys her hay bales in small batches from 10-30 bales. She testified she feeds her horses two to three times a day, once in the morning and at one or two various times per day, with no set schedule, as some of horses have behavior problems and she doesn’t want them to develop food aggression.

Newell-Reed also said she supplements the hay with mineral supplements, food pellets, mush and beet pulp and was expecting a delivery of two round bales of hay on the night of the seizure and was going to pick up 20 square bales of hay that day.

Newell-Reed brought evidence of several hay and feed receipts, as well as empty bags of food.

Welch asked Newell-Reed about her former horse rescue on her proprerty, “New Beginnings,” Newell-Reed said it is no longer in operation “because of King William County” and her 2017 animal cruelty conviction.

Newell-Reed’s defense Andrew Bodoh in his final argument said that the horses’ conditions and care should be judged on a case by case basis, as a third of the horses were at body conditions from four to seven. Bodoh also said that Collins found no critical injuries to the horses and that any underlying health conditions were not allowed to be brought into evidence or testimony.

Welch’s final argument was that the lack of adequate care is a crime of omission by failure to provide necessary food and care and systemic starvation.

Gaden ruled that adequate body scores do not make up for inadequate care and that she believes Newell-Reed had good intentions with her former rescue, but that it got out of control. She ordered the ownership transferred to King William, with the state and county to work on finding the right owner for a horse that was boarded and discuss the plan for three horses owned by Patricia Cohen-Kinlaw, who were being trained by Newell-Reed.

Newell-Reed is also banned from owning horses for five years, due to an animal cruelty conviction in 2017 and a history of former animal cruelty issues and a 2016 seizure, according to Gaden.

Gaden set an appeal bond at $50,000, which is set for the care of 33 horses for nine months at $20 a day by the county and for the $9,900 the county has already expended on the care.

Newell-Reed has 10 days to file an appeal decision to the Circuit Court and 30 days to pay the bond.

The horses were not kept in the area after the seizure, according to King William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Matthew Kite.

Kite said he’s “unsure” where the horses will go at the moment, but that they will be cared for and owned by the county.

This story will be updated.

Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, aluck@tidewaterreview.com or @ashleyrluck on Twitter

Copyright © 2019, The Virginia Gazette
37°