A former Minnesota Horse Council board member accepted a plea deal after being accused of starving her horses. Carol Dobbelaire pleaded guilty to two counts of gross misdemeanor animal cruelty and misdemeanor neglect.
Dobbelaire was charged last December in Wright County with two felonies and six misdemeanor counts of overworking or mistreating animals. Dobbelaire’s husband, Rick, was also charged and accepted the same plea bargain. They are represented by attorney James Ventura of Minneapolis.
Court documents state the majority of Dobbelaire’s 16 horses were emaciated and continued to deteriorate despite multiple visits from the Animal Humane Society.
In September, two horses with “very little to no body fat… and visible rib cages that had skin dipping in between the ribs” were euthanized. Agent Keith Streff noted the only food available was a round hay bale with mold growing on it. The “horses had become so starved that they began eating away on the walls, possibly consuming the fiberglass insulation” from the barn.
The criminal complaint states during a November follow-up the horses did not have acceptable hay or water. A veterinarian looked at seven of the horses and scored them all as a 2 or 3 on the Henneke Body Condition scale.
Dobbelaire was active in the horse community. Tracy Turner, DVM, the past president of Minnesota Horse Council, says Dobbelaire was suspended from the group’s board and as a member.
The Dobbelaires’ sentencing is scheduled for July 25. Each could face up to a year behind bars, according to Assistant County Attorney Elizabeth Larson.