The bodies of 49 horses were found on the mud and manure soaked property of a Kentucky horse trader after an April 2014 tip to authorities. This isn’t the first time dead horses have been found on Larry Browning’s farm. This time he is charged with 15 counts of animal cruelty and 49 counts of not disposing of animal carcasses properly.
Some are calling the charges against Browning long overdue. Browning has been selling horses for 50-years in Butler and denies doing anything wrong. He says since domestic horse slaughter ended people drop horses off on his farm — estimating 100 horses have been left on his property in the past two-years.
One county official calls dealing with Browning for the last 10-years a “complicated situation”. Pendleton County Judge-Executive Henry Bertram says, “the care for his animals has deteriorated”.
According to Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) documents, numerous complaints have been made against the kill buyer. In late June 2011, the agency’s investigator Stephen Mitchell and county animal control officer Steve Johnson reported the horses had a Body Condition Score(BCS) of 3.5 to 4. There is no mention of the men putting their hands on their horses, no photos taken, and the report states all horses had what “appeared to be adequate quality hay”. No action was taken and the report states the complaints of abuse appeared unfounded.
Less than two weeks later, Animals’ Angels conducted its own abuse investigation after receiving a tip about Browning’s starving animals. The group states it found more than 100 horses in
different pastures. Pictures document horses that are thin, coughing, and standing in filth. The animals’ hay was described as moldy. The group reports it notified authorities of the conditions, but charges were never filed.
Kentucky has an animal cruelty statute that is a Class A misdemeanor.
According to the KDA’s Assistant Director of Public Relations, Ted Sloan, “Kentucky Department of Agriculture livestock investigators have enforcement powers. Local authorities are the primary investigators in animal abuse investigations, and KDA investigators provide support to the local authorities.”
A report released by the Animal Legal Defense Fund in December 2013 ranked Kentucky for the seventh year as the worst state for animal protection in the U.S.
Browning had 70 to 100 horses on his farm when another animal abuse complaint was received in October 2011. Authorities found six round bales of hay of questionable quality available on the property. Three horse carcasses littered the farm. On the way to their demise were 25 horses that had a BCS of 1. Officials reached an agreement with Browning to “resolve the problem for the 25 horses in immediate danger,” which resulted in those starving horses being euthanized by a veterinarian. It is unclear what happened to the remaining horses.
Bertram, who is a county lawmaker, says there was not a good abuse case against Browning in 2011. “He claimed none of the animals were his. There was no way to prove it [ownership]”. Additionally, at the county level, there was no legal recourse to prevent Browning from re-offending until January 2013, according to Bertram.
Starving Horse Ordinance
One of the enforcement actions of the Starving Horse Ordinance 841.1, enacted in 2013, is that anytime a horse is dropped off on an individual’s property, that person has 24 hours to report the equine’s abandonment to animal control. The law states if an animal is found to be starving a “harborer shall be presumed to have knowledge of neglected and/or starving equines found under that person’s control, custody, and possession or on that person’s land and shall be subject to the penalties…”
Bertram says, “we are not going to allow this to continue in our community.”
The ordinance did not prevent additional horses from suffering while allegedly in Browning’s care. Documents state on April 7, 2014, authorities found more than four dozen dead horses. “Some skulls still had halters on them. Of the 14 horses noted by the veterinarian, 4 were dead within an estimated past few months to past week evidenced by the amount of flesh remaining”.
“Lack of oversight has caused horses to be injured, suffer needlessly and die. It is recommended that no horses should be left in the care of Mr. Larry Browning and no horses should be allowed to enter into his care in the future,” according to a veterinarian’s report.
Browning reportedly sold the remaining 18 horses, not seized by authorities, to an animal rescue group after charges were filed.
Sloan from KDA says agriculture agent Stephen “Shane” Mitchell is still employed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Additionally, an internal investigation was never completed regarding the June 2011 investigation.
Browning pleaded not guilty to the charges. His trial is scheduled to begin on August 7th.
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