Husband defends horses’ caretaker
His wife is accused of animal cruelty, but Ryan Peterson says she loves her animals.
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Ryan Peterson, shown with a horse on land he rents with his wife, Mary, in Sultan, says she took in animals that were ailing.
Mary Peterson appears via video before a judge in Everett District Court on Thursday.
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Elegant Gesture is one of several horses a veterinarian deemed not in immediate danger and left in Sultan when 10 horses belonging to Mary Peterson were removed from the property.
Mark Mulligan / The Herald Ryan Peterson stands near a horse named Elegant Gesture on land he rents with his wife, Mary Dawn Peterson, in Sultan. Elegant Gesture is one of several horses a veterinarian deemed not in immediate danger when Animal Control removed ten horses from the property. Mary Dawn Peterson appeared before a judge in Everett District Court Thursday who set bail at $5000. Peterson is being held for investigation of first-degree animal cruelty.
Mary D. Peterson, 38, was arrested Wednesday for investigation of animal cruelty, and Snohomish County animal control officers seized 10 horses from her rented 2.3-acre farm.
Many of her horses were already ailing from diseases when she took them in, her husband, Ryan Peterson, said Thursday.
“I really have a problem with people coming in and charging someone for having sick horses,” he said. “They make it seem like a state of neglect, but it’s not.”
A half-dozen horses, some with their ribs visible beneath their coats, remained at the Sultan farm Thursday. Officials said the animals weren’t in immediate danger, but their care would be monitored.
The horses nibbled at hay and welcomed the attention of visitors.
Ryan Peterson said all the horses at the farm were well cared for, fed ample amounts of hay and grain and given veterinary care.
Court documents provide a different description of how the animals were cared for.
Mary Peterson “has shown that she is not able to properly care for the horses in her care and custody,” Snohomish County animal control officer Angela Davis wrote in a search warrant affidavit.
Several of the horses that were found on Peterson’s property had injuries, were sick and extremely emaciated causing unnecessary pain and suffering, Davis wrote.
County officials were first notified June 23 about potential problems at the farm in the 12900 block of Trout Farm Road, court documents said.
Two days later an officer visited Mary Peterson and told her to seek a veterinarian’s care for Tyme, a bay mare.
The mare’s skin hung on her ribs, hip bones and spine, the court document said. She had sores and could barely walk.
In mid-July, after two veterinarians determined the horse could not be saved, Mary Peterson, the primary care provider for the horses, reportedly signed paperwork surrendering the mare to the county for humane killing.
“They came in here locked and loaded and basically said, ‘We’re going to take you to jail if you don’t let us take this horse,’” Ryan Peterson said, recounting the conversation officers had with his wife. “She was scared.”
After that, animal control officers told Mary Peterson they would monitor her treatment and care of the remaining horses on the farm.
Animal control officers visited the Peterson farm at least six times in July and August.
During one visit, an officer said none of the horses had water. As the officer watered the horses, the animals were so thirsty, they fought each other to get to the water barrels, the court document said.
Of the 18 horses on the property, nine appeared underweight. Many were sick. A foal’s large head and small body was evidence the animal’s growth was stunted because of a lack of proper nutrition.
One mare was on her side, with green mucus draining from her nostrils and covering her legs, Davis wrote.
The feed that was available — low-quality hay — wasn’t given to the horses, said Vicki Lubrin, the county’s animal control manager.
Ryan Peterson said the animals were well fed. He said his wife had taken some of the horse on as rescue animals and was breeding others for sale.
Still, the animals appeared to be suffering, the court documents said.
“She was not following the vet’s recommendations, and the animals continued to decline,” Lubrin said.
Animal control officers on Wednesday served a search warrant on the property. They removed 10 horses, court papers said.
The seized animals were taken to a private farm and now are under the care of a veterinarian, Lubrin said.
Mary Peterson was booked into the Snohomish County Jail.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Randy Yates on Thursday asked Everett District Court Judge Roger Fisher to require bail for Peterson, arguing she posed a danger to the remaining horses on her property. Yates said Peterson may be a flight risk because she had signed a lease on a property in Idaho and is a Canadian.
Fisher ordered her held in lieu of $5,000 bail and ordered her not to obtain any more horses if released.
Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, firstname.lastname@example.org
Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.