‘Prolonged neglect’: Darrington woman charged with starving horses

After a months-long investigation, the woman is accused of neglecting her animals.

DARRINGTON — A Darrington woman is accused of mistreating her horses, leading to “substantial and unjustifiable physical pain,” prosecutors allege.

One of the horses needed to be euthanized, while the woman claimed another died of “colic,” according to charges filed this week in Snohomish County Superior Court.

After an investigation that lasted months, prosecutors charged her with seven counts of first-degree animal cruelty and two counts of second-degree animal cruelty.

A woman called Snohomish County Animal Control Services in September 2020 to ask for a welfare check on the horses, according to charging papers. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management had recently seized five of the Darrington woman’s horses, the witness told an animal control officer.

The witness reportedly sent pictures of underweight horses with overgrown, cracked hooves to the animal control officer, according to the charges.

The horses were rated on a scale from 1 to 9, with 1 being emaciated and 9 being very overweight. The ideal range is from 4 to 6.

One horse, named Katniss, had a score between 2½ and 3, according to court papers. An Arabian gelding named Mighty scored at 3½. A thoroughbred named Wander scored a 1½. The woman reported she had recently adopted Wander.

On that September visit, the animal control officer told the Darrington woman, 32, that Katniss and Wander needed to gain weight. If they didn’t, a veterinarian would need to come evaluate them.

On another visit the next month, the officer noted yet another horse, Piper, was having issues with her front hooves. This only started happening after the woman got her, according to the officer. And at an appointment the next month, a veterinarian noted a score of 2 on the scale “would be generous,” according to court documents.

The vet also found untreated swelling on Piper’s hooves, which the doctor attributed it to poor care, according to the charges. The woman reportedly decided to have Piper euthanized.

Another animal control officer found two more horses, Opal and Pearl, were underweight in November 2020. After each visit, the woman told officers she understood the horses couldn’t lose any more weight.

And yet, in December, none of the horses had put on pounds, according to court records.

In a search of the property in January of this year, officers discovered none of the horses had access to hay or grain, and their water was running low and dirty, according to court documents. The stalls were reportedly lined with 6 to 8 inches of decomposing waste.

Meanwhile, the officers couldn’t find Mighty, according to prosecutors. The suspect reported the horse had been moved to a friend’s property.

But in a subsequent text message, she changed that story: Mighty had died of colic.

Authorities again were called to the property in November after a witness reported three other horses appeared underweight. And the woman’s bull, named Redbull, had reportedly also lost substantial weight in the prior few months.

“It was reasonable to conclude that all of the horses’ poor and medicated conditions were attributable to prolonged periods of insufficient food and water, prolonged neglect, and chronic starvation,” deputy prosecuting attorney Jestin Peckinpaugh wrote in the charges, citing an animal control officer.

The Darrington woman’s arraignment is set for Dec. 20.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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