People in Bastrop pleading for investigation into malnourished horse

- Hundreds of people in Bastrop called for action after a woman found an emaciated horse on ranch land in the County Sunday. 

Members of the community have reached out to the Bastrop County Sheriff and the ASPCA, but, so far, the animals have not been removed from the property. 

FOX 7 Austin’s attempts to reach out to the property owner were unsuccessful. 

Robyn Katz said her friend was passing through Bastrop on FM 969 when she saw something that made her pull off the road. 

“She observed that horse to be laying down. She wasn't sure if it was alive or dead, but she realized it was alive, but it could barely lift its head or move,” Katz said.  

The woman, who does not want to be identified, says she stopped to give the animal water and took pictures hoping to get other people involved. 

“The horse is emaciated, you can count every rib, see the hip bones, it did not look to be in clearly good physical condition,” said Katz.  

The horse passed away within the hour. 

Katz, a Comal County Assistant District Attorney, as well as hundreds of people in Bastrop want to help prevent this from happening again to the dozens of other animal on the property. They called the sheriff’s office to report the case. 

“A horse does not get like that overnight. A horse does not get like that because it's old and turned out.

A horse gets like that because it's being starved and not getting proper medical care,” Katz said.  

Katz has worked on animal cruelty cases in Comal County before. She suggests the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office handles this quickly before other animals on the property suffer the same fate.

“I'm absolutely concerned and the sheriff's office out there, if they're impartial and if they don't have any conflicts of interest, should obtain all vet records from every single animal that is on that property, records for transport for hay and feed that has supposedly been delivered to that property, talk to a vet if there has been a vet who has seen all these animals and get the vets perspective and diagnosis,” said Katz. 

When FOX 7 Austin visited the pasture Monday, there were still several animals with ribs and other bones visible. 

“I think the entire community is shocked and outraged because it seems like still nothing is being done out there. Something should've been done [Sunday] those animals should've been removed [Sunday],” Katz said.   

Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook responded to our requests for comment with this statement

Monday:

“There has been some media attention and social media posts about this agency receiving a report regarding horses being neglected at an address on FM 969 in Bastrop County. On Sunday, August 19, 2018, at approximately noon, the neglect report came directly to an off-duty Sheriff’s Office Livestock Deputy who immediately went on duty to investigate the report and check on all the animals in the pasture. Based on a preliminary review, all of the livestock has adequate food and water. There are natural grasses and other food present on the property. Some have reported that there is no water for the animals. This is incorrect. The Colorado River runs through part of the property and the deputies have identified 2 other water wells in use on the property.
We later learned that on Saturday, August 18, 2018, two calls were received regarding this issue by the Bastrop County 911 center. Bastrop Police Department was dispatched and responded to the scene and took a report, mistakenly thinking the location was within the City of Bastrop. As this issue developed on Sunday, the location was found to be in the County, and as of today, Monday, August 20, 2018, the entire investigation was forwarded to the Sheriff’s Office, to include a trespassing complaint by the land owner against those that trespassed on his property. 
Without forming an opinion or compromising our investigation, what we can say is that over the past years, there have been other reports regarding animal cruelty at this location, but none have resulted in charges or convictions for animal cruelty. The rancher who owns this property is formerly a rodeo stock contractor. Many of these animals are former rodeo stock, and range in age from newborns to over 30 years of age. The land owner explained that he keeps the animals out of respect for them, to let them live out their life in a peaceful, stress-free manner. According to the land owner, that means that he allows them to live to a ripe old age, and to die naturally. Some do show their aging process, as do other animals. That may or may not be the case in this situation; we will not comment on this particular case because it is an open investigation. We are having two livestock investigators looking into this report, and have sought the advice from several area veterinarians who do not want to be involved due to retaliation concerns through social media. The District Attorney has been consulted on all aspects of this case, and we will develop the case as the investigation moves forward. Regardless, if the evidence meets the threshold for animal cruelty or Criminal Trespass, this case will be sent to the District Attorney’s Office for his review.

While the photographs are disturbing, we urge everyone to withhold judgment until all of the evidence can be examined. Social media posts calling for “lightning to strike” the rancher or for him to get shot only slows our investigation as the threats are evaluated to determine if the threats are credible or not. Those that would consider trespassing are cautioned against it. Just as cruelty to livestock animals is a crime, trespassing on property protected by a fence is a crime and could result in imprisonment up to 6 months. As we move forward with our investigation, we are very concerned for the safety of trespassers, and trespassers are cautioned not to go on fenced property because horses and bulls, especially retired rodeo horses and bulls are un-predictable animals. We appreciate the concerns that have been generated, but we must proceed in a legal, respectful, and safe manner. 
Normally, we do not make it a practice of releasing information regarding details of an ongoing investigation; however, due to the amount of publicity and concern that this case has generated, we have made an exception. As this is an open investigation, we will not make any further comments at this time.”

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