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January 28, 2009
Father, daughter convicted of abusing horses
BY PETER E. BORTNER
A father and daughter each must pay costs and a fine after being convicted Tuesday in Schuylkill County Court of improperly caring for two horses in Washington Township.
Ernest D. Schaeffer, 58, of Pine Grove, and Pamela J. Heiser, 33, of Schuylkill Haven, each must pay costs and a $500 fine after Judge D. Michael Stine found them guilty of cruelty to animals.
“There still was a conscious indifference” to the condition of Blackjack and Pretty Boy, Stine said at the end of the 90-minute hearing.
State police at Schuylkill Haven had charged Schaeffer and Heiser with not providing adequate shelter, food and medical care for Pretty Boy, a chestnut paint horse, or Blackjack, a black quarterhorse, on June 23 at 1040 Deturksville Road.
Blackjack was not in much better shape, she said.
“There were flies and drainage from his shoulder,” and he was chained to a piece of machinery, Berry said.
Furthermore, the shelter for both horses did not have a roof but did have chewed-out walls, she said.
Dr. Travis H. Boston, a veterinarian, testified chaining any horse is bad because they instinctively run when alarmed. He also said Pretty Boy had exposed ribs and was in worse shape than Blackjack, even though the latter had had his injury for several years.
“(Horses) need to eat probably 1 to 2 percent of their body weight per day,” Boston said. “It’s pretty unlikely he was getting that.”
However, neither was in good shape,” he said.
“I believe ... both horses could be considered neglected. I think it likely” both were deprived of sustenance, Bolton said.
State police Trooper Wesley Levan said Schaeffer told him he was taking care of both horses, that Pretty Boy was Heiser’s and Blackjack belonged to his half brother.
Schaeffer testified that the part of the shelter where the horses stayed had a roof and that he was taking care of Blackjack’s wound. However, he does not know when he will finish the shelter.
“I’m not home that much anymore,” Schaeffer said.
James G. Conville, Schuylkill Haven, Schaeffer and Heiser’s lawyer, asked for an acquittal, saying prosecutors had not proven their case.
“There were issues with these horses and they took adequate measures,” he said of his clients. “Is this a thoroughbred stable? No, it’s a farm structure.”
Assistant District Attorney Doug Tagliere said Pretty Boy and Blackjack deserved better than what they had.
“These animals lived amongst garbage,” he said. “The statute protects every horse.”
Conville said he would talk with his clients about whether to appeal Stine’s ruling.
Taglieri said after the hearing that Blackjack is still at the Washington Township location but he does not know where Pretty Boy is.
Also after the hearing, Berry said she was happy with the result.
“I am thrilled that the state police responded to this complaint and the district attorney’s office ... took it seriously,” Berry said. “Sometimes, people just need to be educated.”
Tuesday’s hearing represented the second time Heiser and Schaeffer had lost their case.
Magisterial District Judge Carol A. Pankake, Tremont, originally found Heiser and Schaeffer guilty on Oct. 14, but each appealed that ruling on Nov. 13.