July 15, 2013

Animal neglect not found at Cass County residence

Vet checks out animals shown in Facebook video

By Amie Sites

---- — After a video posted to Facebook drew attention to complaints of animal mistreatment, a local veterinarian has concluded the animals in question aren't neglected — their owner just needed some guidance.

A video posted to the Pharos-Tribune's Facebook page July 5 garnered 370 shares within one week. The 5 minute, 33 second video shows someone commentating on the state of three horses and two calves on a property in Cass County.

Local officials responded to the complaints of animal mistreatment and visited the location but determined neglect wasn't the case.

Animal control received a call July 5. Dr. Chris Ciotta, who runs the Cass County Animal Hospital, visited the residence Tuesday.

Brian Hyder, animal control officer, declined to comment on the case.

Ciotta determined the animals were not neglected, talked to the animal owner and went over some things he could improve. Although one of the horses was thin, it was not determined malnourished, he said.

“I would not say they are neglected; I would just say the owner needed direction,” Ciotta said. “He seemed very receptive to the advice.”

There was feed out for the animals, but it wasn’t the best quality, Ciotta said.

The owner, Scott Hunter, said he still lives on the property and stayed somewhere else last week while a new roof was put on his residence. While he was gone he had someone feed his horses, he said.

There are three horses — Nacho, Sunny and Beer — and two calves on the property, Hunter said. He has had Nacho for four years, Sunny for three years, Beer for a year and the two calves for a few months, he said.

"Dr. Ciotta speaks for himself and would be the first one to say something if there was something wrong here," Hunter said.

During Ciotta's visit, the horses and calves were interactive and didn’t seem sluggish or depressed, Ciotta said.

There was a similar investigation in January, according to Jill Rife, Chief Deputy with the Cass County Sheriff's Department. The complaints were coming from the same source, she said.

Complaints called in to the sheriff's department have mostly been about animals being out and on the road, Cass County Sheriff Randy Pryor said. The department received several calls and sometimes tried to coax them back into the pen, Pryor said.

"When we go to the property, there is plenty of food," Pryor said. "We're trying to take measures to correct the issue of the animals getting out, but it's the owner's responsibility."

Additional advice Hunter received included separating the horses when feeding them and working on keeping the animals within the fence, Hunter said.

Animal control, a state livestock inspector, members from the sheriff's office and others have visited the property.

Lisa Clark, director of the Cass County Humane Society went out to the property with Ciotta Tuesday.

Only one person called the Cass County Humane Society about the property, Clark said. She clarified she deals only with dogs and cats and animal control brings the animals to her for care.

The Cass County Humane Society is "not unsympathetic to the issue," Clark said. "We're just not qualified to make that call."

Ciotta said he will allow time for the suggestions he gave to be implemented. Ciotta drives by the property frequently enough and said he may call the owner.

“I think sometimes people just need a little more education,” Ciotta said. “Our society is too quick to point fingers as opposed to helping people out.”