Seizure of horses defended

CADIZ – Wednesday’s meeting of the Harrison County commissioners saw Humane Officer Darla Smith appear before the board to defend her actions in the seizure of two horses from a Freeport property.

The two horses of Kenneth Feister and Gloria Woods were taken on June 12.

Smith told the board she was aggravated by comments Commissioners Bill Host and Don Bethel made at the last meeting concerning her handling of the humane issue, when the pair had appeared before the board protesting her actions.

Smith maintained the seizure of the animals was not based on their condition but on the lack of adequate food and quality water where they were being kept.

Smith had been to the location before and stated the one horse, known as “Bunny,” was in poor condition described as “skin and bones.” The other, known as “Sugar,” was in better physical condition, but Smith decided the best course of action was to confiscate both horses.

Comparing the seizure to an intervention by the Department of Job and Family Services for child welfare, she contended that when one child is removed from a home for suspected abuse that Child Services does not leave the rest of the children.

Smith contended the board should not have commented on the issue as they had no authority in the matter.

After some questioning and research, the board found that it was in fact the direct supervisor for the county humane officer. The board confirmed its full faith in Smith,

“It is a difficult job and you are passionate about animal welfare and have always performed very well in your capacity,” Bethel said. “However, this is a public meeting, we are elected officials and therefore work for the citizens of this county, and they have the right to voice their concerns.”

Bethel explained that Feister and Woods had come to the board asking for clarification on the investigation. Charges are pending against the pair and they were wondering what the time frame was on the investigation and who to contact concerning the seizure, asking that they either be charged or the horses be returned.

Bethel also stated that in his opinion the investigation was over when the horses were seized and that ample time had passed to present the case to prosecutors.

Also in attendance was Susan Anderson, the former owner of Bunny. Feister and Woods had stated at the prior meeting they had only owned the horse since March 25, and that it had been in worse condition when given to them. Anderson said she had been attacked in social media and received threatening calls since the information had been in the media.

“I have been drug into this issue and I feel, unfairly.”

Anderson contested presenting pictures of the horse taken before the sale, which she claimed countered the claims of abuse leveled against her at the prior meeting. ” I have always taken very good care of all of the animals at our farm and have never been under investigation for any kind of abuse.”

The board hopes to expedite the issue so that the decision can be made by the county court.

In other business, the board opened bids from Lash Paving and Shelly & Sands for the paving of a portion of county Road 14 under Ohio Public Works funding.

Tracy Rader, staff representative from the state office of the Fraternal Order of Police Ohio Labor Council, addressed the board about an upcoming contract renewal with the sheriff’s department in 2016. Rader asked about avenues for additional funding the board is pursuing and action to address the issue of pay raises for the deputies.

The board will take the comments under advisement.