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August 21, 2014

Justice for Abused Donkey

Congratulations to Assistant District Attorney Rob Freyer of Montgomery County, Texas for obtaining a conviction in cruel animal dragging case

  • After the incident, Susie Q lay injured by the side of the road. Pct. 4 Montgomery County Police Reporter

  • Susie Q's hooves were ground down to the bone. Pct. 4 Montgomery County Police Reporter

  • Blood stains in the road attested to Susie Q's suffering. Pct. 4 Montgomery County Police Reporter

by Sherry Ramsey

Assistant District Attorney Rob Freyer of Montgomery County, Texas, faced some difficult hurdles in prosecuting a donkey dragging case. The defendant, Marc Saunders, reportedly offered to lead home a neighborhood donkey, Susie Q, after she wandered off her property. Saunders reportedly tied her to his SUV and began driving. According to a witness, when Susie Q stopped, Saunders knowingly dragged her for about a quarter of a mile.

"There was a trail of blood going down the road. The donkey, when located by Constable Morrow, was lying in a ditch and was in obvious pain. Her hooves were bleeding," said Freyer.

Saunders was charged with animal cruelty pursuant to section 42.09 of the Texas Penal Code, a State Jail Felony carrying up to 6 months to 2 years in jail. However, A.D.A. Freyer charged that the defendant used a motor vehicle as a deadly weapon in the commission of an offense, which elevated the charge to a 3rd degree felony carrying up to 2 to 10 years in prison.

Saunders was charged with animal cruelty pursuant to section 42.09 of the Texas Penal Code, a State Jail Felony carrying up to 6 months to 2 years in jail. However, A.D.A. Freyer charged that the defendant used a motor vehicle as a deadly weapon in the commission of an offense, which elevated the charge to a 3rd degree felony carrying up to 2 to 10 years in prison.

D.A. Freyer faced some difficulties in prosecuting this crime, particularly when the owners of Susie Q testified for the defense. Given the evidence, however, Freyer believed he could prove felony cruelty. "I didn't need the testimony of the owners to prove these charges given the obvious injuries to the donkey and the testimony of the witnesses," said Freyer.

Good Samaritan turned expert witness for the prosecution Brian Saathoff, a local veterinarian who came upon the donkey lying in the ditch, "was an outstanding witness," noted Freyer. He diagnosed the animal's injuries and noted the severe damage to her hooves, which were ground down to bone. "The animal was lucky he was in the area at the time and that he stopped to help," Freyer said.

After a four-day trial, the defendant was found guilty of animal cruelty as a third-degree felony. Freyer pushed for the maximum sentence, and in January 2014, the court handed down a five-year prison sentence, of which Saunders must serve at least half before being eligible for parole.

Since then, Susie Q has recovered and is doing well.

"I appreciate the hard work that the jury and Judge Susan Stovall did in this case in ensuring justice for Susie Q," said Freyer. Thanks are also due to deputy Dwayne Morrow of the Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable's Office.

Congratulations to Assistant District Attorney Freyer for a job well done.

Sherry Ramsey is Director, Animal Cruelty Prosecutions for The Humane Society of the United States.

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