Horse owner charged with animal cruelty

By DeeAnna Haney | Mar 20, 2012
Courtesy of: Karen Owens, STAR Ranch Rescue Bucky, a 6-year-old stallion, died March 11 of malnutrition and worm infestation. His owner was recently charged with animal cruelty.

Waynesville police arrested a local man Monday evening charging him with cruelty to animals after the death of Bucky, a 6-year-old stallion, who died from extreme malnourishment and a blood stream filled with parasites and worms.

Toney Martinez, 43, of 53 Cindy Lane, Waynesville, pulled into the driveway when police arrived at his home to serve the warrant for arrest, which was issued earlier that day.

According to the police report, Martinez was clearly upset when he found out the reason for his arrest and told Sgt. Timothy O’Neill that he did not understand why he was being arrested because he had already turned the horse over to animal control.

Martinez was placed under $1,000 secured bond, but had enough cash to pay his own bond and was taken back to his home. He is scheduled to appear in district court April 18.

Bucky’s fight for life

Animal Control launched an investigation into Bucky’s health March 1 and Martinez relinquished the horse’s care to STAR Ranch Rescue, an organization for abused and neglected horses in Haywood County.

Martinez, a native of Mexico, had kept the horse tethered in a small area for years. Karen Owens, co-owner of the rescue organization, said she had gone with animal control to check on Bucky’s condition sometime in 2008 after receiving calls from concerned people in the community.

Although he was tethered with no room to roam, he appeared to be well-fed and taken care of.

“What we did not know was that he was not wormed. Finally the worms caught up to him,” she said.

It’s not illegal to keep a horse tied up, Owens pointed out, but being kept in one spot can begin to take it’s toll.

“It doesn’t matter what he was tied to, the fact was he was tethered and being treated like a dog. It’s not illegal, but the problem with doing it to a horse is they are grazers and they need space to roam and be with other horses.”

When STAR Ranch took over the care of Bucky on March 1, it seemed like he might have had a chance at survival, said Owens, who sought the opinion of a veterinarian before deciding the best choice for the horse.

Owens said sometimes the best option with a sick horse is to euthanize if they feel the animal has no chance of living a quality life.

“When I saw him in person, Bucky seemed like he had a chance and that’s what we grabbed at,” Owens said. “When I saw him the Saturday before he died, he was out in the sun and had so many visitors. He was grazing, he was brushed and he had a great day.”

Soon after, though, it was clear that Bucky’s health was declining regardless of the care and attention volunteers at Star Ranch could give him. He began retaining water in both back legs, a sign of kidney failure, and was found dead March 11.

Because the horse had gone so long without being treated for worms, Owens said even if they had taken care of him a year ago, he still would have been too far gone to have survived.

Bucky's condition could not have been cured with surgery, she said, and he was fighting a losing battle with worms.

“He was already into kidney failure by the time we got him,” Owens said. “It was a heartache because he had a really sweet spirit about him. It would be different if he was a really old horse, but Bucky was only 6 years old.”


Jean Hazzard, director of animal control services, chose to press charges against Martinez after the release of the postmortem exam.

Killing any animal with malice or intentional deprivation is a class H felony in North Carolina. But a prosecutor needs proof that the death was malicious and intentional in order to charge someone with the harsher felony.

District Attorney Mike Bonfoey declined to comment on the pending case with Martinez. He said the most recent case he can remember involving animal cruelty charges on a horse in Haywood County may have been as far back as the late 1990s.

Even though the charge is a misdemeanor instead of a felony, Owens is happy to see authorities take action against animal abuse.

“I’m just glad he’s charged and we’re going to tell folks ‘Look you can’t do this.’ There are cruelty charges on the book for a reason and animals deserve a fair shake. Even if they are animals that are raised to be eaten – cows or chickens, I don’t care – they all deserve a quality of life,” she said.

Owens said the only conversation she had with Martinez was when he signed the horse over to the care of the rescue center. She could not determine if the owner was upset about the horse’s condition or about giving him up.

Martinez also owns two other horses, both of which appear to be in good health, Owens said. However, outward appearance is not always an indication of what is going on inside a horse.

She is urging animal control to take a closer look at the other two horses to make sure they have been treated for worms.

“It’s really up to animal control to make sure they’re OK.”

When asked if he had treated the other horses for worms, Martinez hung up the phone.

Hazzard said she will be monitoring the two horses each week and that they do need some care on their hooves.

In the end, Owens hopes to get the message out that those who abuse animals should expect to be reprimanded.

“To finally see charges being filed I think it’s a real step forward and I think it’s time,” Owens said. “The thing that makes me feel the best is that he didn’t die in vain. He’s sending his own message that we’re the good guys.”

Comments (4)
Posted by: Linda Sexton | Mar 22, 2012 08:25

If this person had enough money to bail himself out of jail, he certainly could have given his horse proper care.  A paste wormer costs $2-$13 and it should be administered at least 4 times a year.  A square bale of hay costs $6-$8 and one horse can be fed for a couple of days on it.  Pellitized feed with minerals costs $13-$18 a bag and would last a horse several weeks along with hay.  Hoof care should be given every 2 mo. by a farrier and that costs $20-$40.  Hoof care by owner costs nothing, as does brushing and checking for injury on a daily basis.  That is basic care of a horse.  For a lot less than $1000 spent on bail, Bucky could have had proper care and lived a normal life span.  Sounds like his "pasture" was non-existent, and I agree with the calls from neighbors back in 2008, their concern was well founded.

Posted by: Connie A. Hewitt | Mar 22, 2012 19:19

Why did it take so long to do something about this situation. Obviously there were warning signs.. and I'd like to know exactly what is being done for the other two horses.

Posted by: Connie A. Hewitt | Mar 22, 2012 19:21

above comment was not posted by penny wallace...

Posted by: Connie A. Hewitt | Mar 23, 2012 09:32

This is the real Penny Wallace.  Please note the comment by D. A. Mark Bonfoey that an animal cruelty case has not been tried since the late 1990s.  This is an indication to me that enforcement of even the weak cruelty laws in place are not being enforced.  Based on what I've seen in this county and what I've been told by countless people relating stories of cruelty, there are ample opportunities for citing animal owners for cruelty.  So why don't they get prosecuted?  1) Because people won't report the cruelty.  Several times a week I take calls from citizens who refuse to contact Animal Services about cruelty they have observed -- and refuse my offer of intervention by not providing adequate information for me to ask Animal Services to do a welfare check; & 2) There are so many complaints throughout the county that the small number of officers have a difficult time responding to all of them in a timely manner.

Unless the citizenry stands up for itself and follows through with complaints and unless they get behind the laws they want enforced and act to ensure that there is adequate enforcement and adequate resources to do so we will continue to see (and by default condone) these cases.  Tell your County Commissioners you want the laws enforced, you want animal cruelty stopped and the perpetrators prosecuted.  An accused thief gets more publicity and public scrutiny than the average animal abuser.  Tell your local media people that it is time to pay attention to this.  Animal abusers are highly likely to be people abusers as well.  It is a public safety issue.  It is time to quit making excuses.

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