Corsica Man Will Serve Time in Death of Four Horses
BROOKVILLE, Pa. (EYT) — A Jefferson County man who recently pleaded guilty to numerous counts of animal cruelty will spend up to a year behind bars after being sentenced by Senior Judge John Foradora Thursday in Brookville.
Leonard Hughes, 44, of Corsica, was found guilty November 23, 2016, of 13 summary counts of cruelty to animals, including four that led to the deaths of four horses at his property.
Hughes was initially sentenced to serve one year in the Jefferson County Jail, but he appealed the four counts that resulted in the death of the horses.
Hughes then pleaded guilty to the four appealed counts, according to Jefferson County Animal Control officer Debbie McAndrew.
Foradora sentenced Hughes to serve consecutive 45 to 90-day terms on each count involving the deaths of the horses.
He also has to pay fines of $1,100 and pay restitution that totals approximately $1,000.
Jefferson County District Attorney Jeff Burkett, McAndrew and Margo Stefanic of the Willow Run Animal Sanctuary each spoke about the animal cruelty that occurred at the hands of Hughes.
“I am not an animal expert, but you don’t need to be one to see that these animals were neglected,” Burkett said. “The water tub was empty, there was no edible hay, nothing appropriate for them to feed on.”
Burkett provided several photos of the horses in poor and emaciated condition, including one that showed a horse licking a shutoff water faucet, trying to get some water.
“When the horses were taken to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, they couldn’t get enough to eat or drink. And they were drinking gallons of water, trying to get enough. They had to be weaned back on to hay because if they ate too much too soon it would very harmful.”
For McAndrew, who serves in a voluntary capacity as the county’s animal control officer, the entire situation was very difficult.
“I do own horses, so this one was very difficult,” McAndrew said. “I’ve never seen a case this bad since I started a few years ago.
“As the humane officer, I made a choice to do this and Mr. Hughes also made a choice to bring animals to his property. No one made him do this.
“He said he was doing rescues, but all he did was bring these horses to his property and then not care for them.”
McAndrew spoke about one of the horses, Patton, that had to be euthanized.
“He was a Belgium Draft Horse and at its full weight, should weigh 2,000 pounds. I saw it August 30 and ordered bed rest and food and water and on September 3, it had to be shot because he did nothing for it.”
McAndrew explained that the horse had to be shot to end it suffering because veterinarians couldn’t be present to administer the drugs because of other animal emergencies they were tending to.
“He was starved to the point where there was no other option,” McAndrew said.
For Stefanic, whose Willow Run Sanctuary & Adoptions is caring for the horses and has put together an online fundraiser that is raising money for their care, it was nearly beyond her imagination of how the horses were treated.
“I am not a horse person, but I’ve never seen an animal in any children’s book portrayed like that.
“He had the audacity to walk past the water faucet, not turn it on and say ‘I’ll shoot every horse here.'”
“It’s a very poor role model for young people. We’re very passionate about this, and he starved those horses to death,” Stefanic said.
Hughes then spoke on his own behalf.
“Your Honor, I screwed up, I messed up. I take full responsibility and I have no problems serving time for what I did. I thought I had capable help, but maybe I should have been more diligent,” Hughes said.
Hughes said the reason the horses weren’t cared for was because he had suffered injuries, including a broken arm and ribs, after being bucked off one of the horses in his care.
Hughes was bucked off the horse on August 26 and he maintained that after his discharge from a Pittsburgh hospital Aug. 29, he could not take care of the horses on doctor’s orders.
“Are you telling me that these horses were fine up until August 26?” Foradora asked Hughes.
“They were fed and watered,” Hughes said.
“It doesn’t take a horse expert to know these horses were not cared for before August 29,” Foradora said.
Since the surviving nine horses were moved to Willow Run, McAndrew said two have been adopted, one will remain at Willow Run and six are still available for adoption.
WRSA is the only animal-related organization in the county that sponsors humane officer services, utilizing Pa. humane law to the fullest capacity to hold animal abusers accountable for cruel acts against animals.
WRSA is a 100 percent volunteer-based, not-for-profit animal welfare/animal rights organization, including the voluntary humane officer. WRSA is certified in Pa. to operate as a non-profit organization as well as being federally recognized by the IRS as an active 501(c)(3).
WRSA is highly dependent and relies upon the support of the human population. WRSA receives no state or federal funding to operate.
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