County Court of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit for Brevard County
THIS MATTER came before the Court on the 29th day of March 2012, upon Brevard
County’s Petition for Hearing to Determine Fitness of Owners to Care for Animals (the
“Petition”), and the Court having reviewed the pleadings, heard the argument of the parties,
considered testimonial and documentary evidence, and being otherwise advised in the premises
The Court makes the following FINDINGS OF FACT and CONCLUSIONS OF LAW:
1.This Court has jurisdiction of this matter pursuant to Section 828.073, Florida Statutes.
2. Prior to trial, Petitioner Brevard County dismissed Cfiarles Eugene Donahue and
Jennifer Hauschild as parties to this action.
3. On February 29, 2012, Brevard County Animal Services and Enforcement
(“BASE”) officers performed an inspection of horses in the care and custody of
Respondents/Owners HorseSisters & Associates, Inc. and Clairese Austin pursuant to a lawfully
issued inspection warrant. BASE was accompanied by Dr. Bradley W. Newman, DVM, of
Newman Equine & Associates, P.A.
4. Dr. Newman examined each equine at the property. The results of the equine
examinations are set forth in a written report by Dr. Newman, a copy of which was attached to
to the Petition as Exhibit “A” and admitted into evidence as Defendant’s Exhibit 2. For purposes of
future identification, evaluation, and tracking of the remaining equines, a copy of Dr. Newman’s
report is attached hereto as Exhibit “A”.
5. Dr. Newman described three of the equines examined as being emaciated,
presenting with Body Condition Scores of 1 out of 9, 1.5 out of 9, and 2 out of 9.
6. BASE impounded these equines for care consistent with Dr. Newman’s recommendations.
Specifically, BASE impounded the horses identified as Ben and Sargon, and the pony identified
7. Dr. Newman testified that in his opinion, the cause of thinness in the impounded
equines was a lack of proper nutrition. Dr. Newman testified that, Respondents/Owners’ care for
these animals did not meet the community standards for proper arid reasonable care of equines.
8. No credible evidence was presented that any of the impounded equines had been diagnosed
with a terminal illness or were dying of causes other than malnutrition.
9. Dr. Newman and BASE Sgt. Chris Robinson testified that all three of the impounded
equines had exhibited improvement in body condition since being impounded. They
also testified that the horses had become noticeably more spirited, having been lethargic at the
time of impound.
10. BASE Sgt. Robinson testified and presented photographic evidence that between
January 11, 2012, and February 29, 2012, he had noted a decline in weight in some of
Respondents/Owners’ other horses that were not impounded by BASE.
11. Jennifer Hauschild also testified that, while volunteering with HorseSisters, she
observed a decline in some horses other than Ben, Sargon, and Smokey, and that there were
times when food was not available for the horses.
12. Dr. Newman testified that, while not all of the horses were in a condition
necessitating immediate impound, a number of the remaining horses were underweight and
required dental or other medical care.
13. Based upon the foregoing, the Court finds that Respondents/Owners HorseSisters
Associates, Inc. and Clairese Austin are financially unable to provide for the impounded
Ben and Sargon.
14. The Court finds that Respondents/Owners HorseSisters & Associates, Inc. and
Austin have provided for the impounded pony Smokey for approximately twenty years,
and they are currently able to adequately provide for him, subject to the conditions set forth
15. The Court finds that Respondents/Owners HorseSisters & Associates, Inc. is fit
and able to provide for the remaining 23 equines, subject to the conditions set forth herein below.
WHEREUPON, it is ORDERED and ADJUDGED as follows:
1. Custody of the impounded horses Ben and Sargon is hereby remanded to Charles
Donahue and Jennifer Hauschild, who were in the process of adopting Ben and Sargon at the
time the horses were impounded.
2. The pony Smokey is to be returned to Respondents/Owners HorseSisters &
Associates, Inc. and Clairese Austin, who shall care for him unless and until he is adopted under
the conditions herein.
3. The Respondents/Owners’ remaining equines, including Smokey, shall be subject
to random, unannounced inspections by BASE to be performed monthly for a period of
one year. BASE may return with a veterinarian of BAS ‘s: choosing should veterinary
evaluation be necessary, in BASE’s sole discretion. Respondents owners are to cooperate with
4. If, in the sole discretion of a veterinarian selected BASE, an equine is in need
of immediate emergency medical treatment, the Respondents/Owners shall either promptly
provide such treatment or allow BASE to provide such treatment. Respondents/Owners are
responsible for the reasonable costs of any such treatment provided by BASE.
5. Respondents/Owners shall keep detailed records of feeding instructions, hay and
feed purchases, medical treatment, farrier treatment, dental treatment, and any other care
provided to the remaining equines. Respondents/Owners shall make such records available to
BASE for inspection on a monthly basis, no later than the 1Oth day of the following month.
6. Respondents/Owners shall not acquire any additional equines unless and until the
Court determines that Respondents/Owners are financially able to adequately provide for said
animals. Respondents/Owners may adopt out remaining equines, but shall not replace them
without Court approval.
7. Because the inadequate care, in this case, was due to ‘financial means, the Court
reserves jurisdiction to award the cost of care to Brevard County, but: does not award the same at
this time, as it will negatively impact the care of the animals.
8. The animals subject to this Final Judgment include all horses, donkeys, ponies
and any other equines identified in Exhibit “A” hereto.
9. The Court reserves jurisdiction to enforce the terms of this Final Judgment.
DONE AND ORDERED on this 12th day of April 2011, Titusville Courthouse,
Brevard County, Florida.
County Court Judge