A police investigator in Ripley, Tenn. was charged with animal cruelty after his horses were found severely malnourished and neglected, reported WREG on Thursday.
James Mark Crook, of Ripley, faces six counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. Crook allegedly failed to provide necessary food, water, care and shelter to three horses, two miniature horses and one colt, which he kept in Gates.
Local animal rescue groups said they had been trying to get help for the horses after receiving complaints that the animals hadn't been taken care of for months. One rescuer stated the Gates Police Department wasn’t cooperative. She believed Crook was being protected because he is a police officer.
The American Humane Association assisted in the rescue. Their press release said the horses were removed and taken to a facility where they will be given food, medical treatment, and intensive care until they are out of danger. Both neighbors and rescuers said it was one of the most disturbing abuse cases they have seen.
“We were horrified when we saw these animals,” said Justin L. Scally, national director of Humane Intervention and Emergency Services for American Humane Association. “Some of these animals were literally at death’s door – mere living, breathing skeletons, when we arrived and we can only hope we can save as many of them as we can."
When rescued on July 31, several of the horses had to be put on oxygen, and some could barely stand (see photos in slideshow). Veterinarians at the scene stated some of the horses had a body score of 1 out of a possible 9.
The horses are in critical condition. Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Dunlap is working around the clock to nurse the animals back to health, according to the American Humane Association.
Crockett County General Sessions Judge Paul Conley has been appointed as a special judge in the case. The Lauderdale County judge recused herself since Crook was a police investigator for the Ripley police department.
Crook was ordered to have no contact with any animals during the case. His bond was set at $3,000. Crook is scheduled to appear in court on Friday, September 26, 2014.
It’s not the first time the American Humane Association’s Red Star® Rescue Team was called out to the area. Earlier this year, nearly 20 starving horses and a mule were rescued. Two years ago, 141 dogs were rescued near Memphis after being found in deplorable condition from the back of a U-Haul trailer. American Humane Association helped care for those animals and arranged for a special airlift of those who were not adopted locally to a safe shelter to find forever homes. Also, a hoarding case in Moscow, Tenn. involved the rescue and caring for more than 140 animals which were kept in a home.