The dead horses as they were found in the pasture.
Court documents reveal new details in the dehydration deaths of ten Utah horses. Horse trainer and clinician, Shamus Haws, of Erda, is charged with 11 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.
On July 8th, Haws moved eleven of Running U Livestock’s quarter horses to new grazing land with no natural water source. He reportedly checked the 500 gallon water tank, which was full.
In preparation for the horses’ move, Haws arranged for a friend to fill the water trough. The neighbor’s hose connects to the trough underground. The man agreed to turn the valve on from his house, but told authorities he did not assume any liability for Haws’ horses or check to see if the trough was filling, according to court documents.
Haws allegedly returned to the pasture on July 16th 17, for the first time in nine days, but did not enter the pasture. “The defendant said he parked on the road and looked into the pasture. The pasture is too big for him to see all the horses from the side of the road, but he did see two horses standing in the distance…”
The next day, authorities responded to the pasture after receiving a report about possible dead horses. Ten horses were found dead. A two-year old grey gelding was found dehydrated, but did survive. Temperatures during that time were near 100 degrees.
One investigator noted Haws was “very emotional not knowing what had occurred to the horses.”
Chief Veterinarian for the State of Utah, Warren Hess, DVM, states healthy horses may last up to five days without water.
Officers noted the water trough was bone dry and there was no moisture in or around it. A metal wire tied around the railroad tie and the hose was pushed down, causing the hose to kink. When authorities turned the water on, the kink prevented the water from entering the water tank. Once the wire was pushed up, the water flowed freely. Horse hair was found on the railroad tie, according to the documents, which is “consistent with a horse rubbing on the tie near the wire and hose.”
Dr. Hess says the “drive by method” of checking horses is not acceptable. “They need to get close enough to observe the horses’ body conditions.”
Seven of the horses’ bodies were too decomposed to perform necropsies, according to the charging documents. Necropsies on the remaining three horses were completed at the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The pathologist determined the horses died from “severe dehydration.”
Haws promotes himself as an American Quarter Horse Association Professional Horseman, although according to Ward Stutz, senior director of breed integrity and welfare, that is not the case. Stutz says Haws is a former AQHA Professional Horseman, but he failed to renew earlier this year.
Stutz tells Rate My Horse PRO the Executive Committee was looking into Haws’ situation, but he did not know if the group came to any sort of decision.
Haws was selected earlier this year to be a 2015 Road to the Horse Wild Card competitor. The horsemanship competition touts the opportunity as the chance to “go up against some of the best trainers from around the world to compete for the coveted title of Champion Colt Starter.” A message to Road to the Horse regarding Haws was not returned.
Haws is charged with 11 counts of animal cruelty for “recklessly or with criminal negligence fail[ing] to provide necessary food, water, care or shelter for an animal in the defendant’s custody; abandon[ing] an animal in his custody; and injuring an animal.” If found guilty he faces a maximum of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $11,000.
Haws did not return a message sent via email.
Correction: Later court documents obtained state the last date Shamus Haws checked on the horses before they were discovered dead was on July 16th. In an attempt to report the most accurate information, the date has been updated in the news article above.