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June 9, 2010

Owner of Rescued W.Va. Equines Charged with Animal Cruelty, Surrenders Animals to The HSUS

PRICHARD, W. Va. — The Humane Society of the United States is pleased to announce that custody of all 49 equines rescued from a Wayne County farm has been granted to The HSUS. In a hearing Tuesday afternoon the owner of the horses, Gary Belcher, pleaded guilty to three charges of misdemeanor animal cruelty stemming from the condition of equines and dogs removed from his property. The HSUS worked with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office and the Cabell-Wayne Animal Shelter to rescue these horses, donkeys and mules from Belcher's Prichard property after receiving complaints concerning the poor health of the animals.

Belcher is barred from owning any animal or having any animal on his property for five years and must pay a $900 fine for his violations. If Belcher violates this stipulation, he will face a fine not exceeding $2,000 and forfeiture of the animal.  

"The Humane Society of the United States is relieved that these animals are now free to begin happy, healthy new lives," said Summer Wyatt, West Virginia state director at The HSUS. "But this case is a clear example of the need for tougher animal cruelty laws in West Virginia. By increasing penalties for those who abuse animals we will send the message that this type of cruel mistreatment will not be tolerated in our state."

When rescuers arrived on the Prichard property earlier in the month, they found a mix of gaited horses, former racehorses, ponies and quarter horse types, as well as mules and donkeys. Many of the animals were extremely emaciated and suffering from a variety of medical ailments including overgrown, infected hooves, parasite infestation and untreated wounds.

In the weeks since the rescue The HSUS and United Animal Nations have been caring for the horses around-the-clock. Despite their poor condition, most of the horses are thriving under proper care. Once the horses gain strength they will be placed with equine rescue groups throughout the region and put up for adoption. Potential adopters should email wvrescue@hsus.org.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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