A trial is set for a woman charged with alleged animal cruelty of six horses in Dolores County, and charges against a second suspect in the case have been dismissed.
Lousinda Ward is charged with six counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty for allegedly neglecting six horses that were removed from a snowy pasture by the Dolores County Sheriff’s Office in January.
Ward has pleaded not guilty, and a trial is set for Nov. 15-16 in Dolores County Court, said 22nd Judicial District Attorney Matt Margeson.
Initial co-defendant, Sharon Ward, had been charged with the same offenses for her alleged involvement, but the DA dismissed the charges Sept. 26 before a trial.
According to an incident report, on Jan. 2 sheriff deputies responded to a call regarding the welfare of horses in a remote pasture near Groundhog Lake at 9,500 feet elevation with deep snow.
Out of concern for the horses’ welfare, the Sheriff’s Office, Dolores County Search and Rescue, county plows and volunteers on snowmobiles launched a multiday effort to remove the horses from the pasture.
The horses were herded to corrals, taken to a safe location and provided care. Lousinda Ward voluntarily surrendered the horses to the Dolores County Sheriff, according to the sheriff’s office.
A report by Dolores County Sheriff Sgt. Coty Kelshaw listed observations for the removed horses: Three were in poor condition, two were in fair condition, and one was in good condition. Of the three in poor condition, two had embedded halter marks, and one had an embedded halter wound.
A state veterinarian evaluated the health of the horses and advised treatment, including wound care and farrier care.
When contacted by the Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 1 about the horses at the pasture, Lousinda Ward said she was unaware that the horses remained there, according to the incident report. She said she did not have access to a working truck and horse trailer to retrieve them.
The incident report states that Sharon Ward and a landowner arranged to graze the horses on his Groundhog property and they were taken there around October.
Kelshaw stated that based on an eyewitnesses, Sharon Ward took the horses to the landowner’s pasture. Sharon Ward disagreed, stating that Lousinda Ward had taken them there.
As a result of investigation, Sharon and Lousinda Ward were both issued summonses for animal cruelty based on their alleged involvement with the horses.
Charges against Sharon Ward have since been dismissed.
According to the motion to dismiss Deputy District Attorney Drew Buffington, Sharon Ward had been initially charged for “her role in transporting the horses to the Groundhog area, and later, the subsequent failure to retrieve the horses from the area prior to the harsh winter months generally observed in that area.”
However, in preparation for the trial, prosecutors discovered that conditions relating to “having the charge or custody” of the horses could not be met, the motion states.
“In particular while Defendant did secure the transport of the horses to the Groundhog area and the grazing land in which they would be kept, it appears that Defendant’s charge and custody was terminated by threats by co-Defendant Lousinda Ward and/or her boyfriend, Charles Elkins, to charge anybody who retrieved those horses with theft. Defendant Sharon Ward is not the owner of the horses, therefore, under the threat of potential theft claims, it appears that her ‘charge or custody’ of the horses was terminated.”
Because of winter road conditions and the remote mountain location, the recovery of the horses from the pasture took seven days. The incident generated local and statewide media coverage.