Humane Society encourages Bastrop County Sheriff to investigate possible animal cruelty

The Humane Society of the United States is encouraging the Bastrop County Sheriff's Office to thoroughly investigate a report of possible animal cruelty. HSUS said they have been contacted about concerns over an emaciated horse that died in a pasture in Bastrop County.

Texas law states, "a person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly fails unreasonably to provide food, water or care for a livestock animal in the person's custody." 

HSUS said the majority of cruelty to livestock cases define care as veterinary care to avoid needless suffering, but it will be up to the Bastrop County District Attorney to determine if this case meets that criteria. There have been other reports at the same property in past years, but none resulted in charges or convictions for animal cruelty. 

The most recent case started when images of a dying horse were posted on social media. 

A woman, who posted the pictures, said she saw the horse as she was driving by property on Duff Drive in Bastrop County over the weekend.

She stopped, jumped the fence, gave the animal water and called the sheriff's office. 

The Bastrop County Sheriff said that's when the most recent investigation at the ranch began. 

“A downed animal that is still alive needs veterinary care or it needs immediate humane euthanasia in order to meet the requirements of veterinary care that are outlined in state law,” said Katie Jarl, Texas senior state director for the Humane Society of the United States.  

Monday, after being inundated with messages, emails and phones calls, Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook posted a statement about the investigation on Facebook. In it he said, "Based on a preliminary review, all of the livestock has adequate food and water." 

Cook also explained that the property owner used to be a rodeo stock contractor and a majority of the animals are former rodeo stock. The sheriff said, "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." 

“We don't question that it was an older horse. We don't question that it may have been sickly, but why was it lying in a field, still alive, not getting the care that it needed? That's a huge question for us right now and under state law that is the owner's responsibility,” Jarl said.   

Read People in Bastrop pleading for investigation into malnourished horse

FOX 7 Austin visited the property to see if any of the other animals there showed signs of malnutrition. 

Many of them appeared to be in good shape, however, others had visible ribs or hip bones and one bull seemed to have trouble using his hind leg. “I hope and the Humane Society encourages the Bastrop County Sheriff's Office to do the right thing, and certainly the district attorney's office to pay attention to this case and prosecute this person if they did violate the law,” said Jarl.  

The sheriff said his office is actively investigating the claims against the landowner as well as a charge for trespassing against the woman who jumped the fence. “She offered a dying animal water and it breaks my heart, because the fact that someone like her could be prosecuted for something, when the person responsible for the animal dying in the field would not be, is a pretty shocking reflection of the values that we would hold in that community,” Jarl said. 

The Humane Society said they can step in and help with the investigation free of charge, but the sheriff has to request their assistance.