UPDATE: 15 more animals seized from Taylor County farm in animal cruelty case

Crime

UPDATE(6/3/19 6:05p.m.)

GRAFTON, W.Va. – According to the Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue, INC Facebook page, approximately 15 horses were seized from the Taylor County farm Monday morning.

These charges were made in connection to the case that resulted in two people being arrested on animal cruelty charges in May.

ORIGINAL STORY UPDATE(5/17/19 6:34p.m.)

GRAFTON, W.Va. – West Virginia State Police arrested two people Friday on animal cruelty charges in Taylor County.

These arrests stem from an investigation and the removal of animals from a farm in April.

According to court documents, on April 22, state police executed a search warrant to look for neglected animals on approximately 700 acres of farmland in the Knottsville-Thornton area of Taylor County.  The land belongs partly to Marvin Austin, 67, and Bonnie Austin.

During the search, a veterinarian assisted animal rescue groups and police in the location and examination of numerous animals, primarily cows and horses, according to police.  The veterinarian identified the 20 worst cases of horses that could be transported.  The assessments were based on a body condition score (BCS), overall health of the animals, the immediate need for veterinary care and farriery, according to court documents.

Police said almost all of the horses had lice with or without dermatitis; had poor body condition scores; were underweight because of a lack of adequate food and water; and were in desperate need of dentistry.  The veterinarian advised that all of the horses were in need of farriery, and they all needed grooming, according to court documents.  Many of the horses had debris and cockleburs matted in their tails, which prevented them from using their tails to swat flies, police said.

The veterinarian noted that grass was not abundant, and most of the pasture was bare.  This led to the horses and cattle being underweight, police said.  A small source of hay from round bales was not quality hay and was molded, according to court documents.  The veterinarian advised that feeding horses from round bales is discouraged because of an increased opportunity for the horses to contract botulism, according to police.

Police noted the following descriptions for each of the horses:

  • Horse 1:  approximately 20-year-old female palomino horse.  The horse was transported to Days End Farm Horse Rescue.
  • Horse 2:  male Red Roan with brand on hip.  The horse was transported to Days End Farm Horse Rescue.
  • Horse 3:  chestnut-colored female.  The horse was transported to Days End Farm Horse Rescue.
  • Horse 4:  black and white paint-colored male.  The horse was transported to Days End Farm Horse Rescue.
  • Horse 5:  chestnut-colored female with star, strip and snip on face.  The horse was transported to Days End Farm Horse Rescue.
  • Horse 6:  gray-colored female with brand on shoulder and buttocks.  The horse was transported to Days End Farm Horse Rescue.
  • Horse 7:  palomino-colored female.  The horse was transported to L. Farm in Grafton.
  • Horse 8:  sorrel and white pinto-colored female.  The horse was transported to Days End Farm Horse Rescue.
  • Horse 9:  chestnut-colored male with blaze and a blue eye.  The horse was transported to Days End Farm Horse Rescue.
  • Horse 10:  bay-colored female with star.  The horse was transported to Days End Farm Horse Rescue.
  • Horse 11:  dunn-colored female.  The horse was transported to Days End Farm Horse Rescue.
  • Horse 12:  red and white-colored female.  The horse was transported to L. Farm in Grafton.
  • Horse 13:  black and white-colored female.  The horse was transported to L. Farm in Grafton.
  • Horse 14:  chestnut-colored female with small star and small snip.  The horse was transported to Bella Run Equine Rescue.
  • Horse 15:  chestnut-colored female with blaze and brand on left thigh.  The horse was transported to Bella Run Equine Rescue.
  • Horse 16:  bay roan-colored female with brand on left hip.  The horse was transported to Bella Run Equine Rescue.
  • Horse 17:  grulla paint-colored female.  The horse was transported to Smoke Rise Ranch Rescue.
  • Horse 18:  gray-colored male.  The horse was transported to Smoke Rise Ranch Rescue.
  • Horse 19:  bay roan-colored intact young male.  The horse was transported to Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue.
  • Horse 20:  gray-colored female.  The horse was transported to Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue.

State Police said they also found a downed cow on the property.  The cow was lying in deep mud and manure and was unable to stand.  Police said the cow had been reported to be in this position for more than two weeks.

The veterinarian noted that the cow had an over-burden of lice, was too weak to stand or roll over and had no shelter from the elements.  Rescue workers gave the cow 25 gallons of water, which it drank without stopping, according to a criminal complaint.  Police said the veterinarian noted that the cow had no access to food and was emaciated, with a body condition score of 1 out of 5, with 1 being too thin and 5 being too obese.

The veterinarian stated that the cow had multiple infected ulcers from lying down without turning.  It also had a large amount of manure accumulated, as it had not been removed, according to a criminal complaint.  The cow was too feeble to move and suffered from dehydration, even after drinking 25 gallons of water, police said.  The veterinarian tried several times to get a blood sample, but the cow’s skin did not bleed when stuck with a needle, according to police.

The veterinarian decided to euthanize the cow because of its poor health from neglect, according to court documents.

Police said Grace Austin, 20, posted a photo on Facebook of her administering an IV solution to the cow on April 7, which was 16 days before the cow was euthanized.  Grace Austin and her father, Marvin Austin, are the primary caretakers of the farmland, according to police.

Marvin Austin told the veterinarian that the cow was being treated every day with an IV solution of calcium, magnesium oxide and potassium, according to court documents.  Marvin Austin stated that the veterinarian who had diagnosed the cow and prescribed this course of treatment was Dr. Ridenour.  Dr. Ridenour retired in 2006 and died in 2011, according to police.

The veterinarian on scene sent a blood sample from the cow to an animal laboratory, and a chemistry analysis showed that the cow was dehydrated; suffered from altered kidney function as a result of the dehydration; had lowered albumin protein, which indicated inflammation; and had lowered calcium and magnesium, which can affect the heart and skeletal muscles, according to court documents.  The veterinarian also stated that it is impossible to have hypocalcemia and hypomagnesemia if the cow was being treated with IV fluids daily that contained calcium and magnesium like Marvin Austin had said, according to court documents.  The veterinarian advised that a blood test and physical exam by a licensed veterinarian would have confirmed a diagnosis and established a treatment plan for the cow, police said.

State Police said a 10-14 day-old kitten was recovered from a barn.  The veterinarian advised that two dead kittens were nearby.  The veterinarian told police that the kitten had an enlarged or bloated belly from presumed endoparasites/worms; was dehydrated; and needed veterinary care as soon as possible, according to court documents.  The kitten was transported to Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue.

Marvin Austin is charged with 22 counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals.  Grace Austin is charged with one count of misdemeanor cruelty to animals.

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