The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

November 23, 2013

Horse owners face 58 cruelty citations

By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer

EAST LACKAWANNOCK TOWNSHIP — Marvin Stickney has taken care of horses for as long as he can remember and said he will fight the animal-cruelty citations against him and bring his horses home.

Stickney, 63, and his partner, Nicole Rust, both of Mercer, were slapped with 29 citations each after Humane Society officials seized their horses in October when they found them “in deplorable and hazardous conditions.”

The Humane Society of Mercer County is asking for restitution for veterinarian bills, boarding and feeding the horses, as well as counseling and community service from the horse owners, Sandi Drabick, executive director of the society, said.

She said the amount of restitution is ongoing, increasing each day.

“Ownership of the animals comes first,” Drabick said.

Stickney said he has raised three of the horses, which are almost 30 years old, from the time they were born.

“The three are really important to me, but if I just ask for part of them back that’s like admitting I’m guilty,” Stickney said. “We won’t settle unless they’re all back.”

Humane Officer Tom Swartz said on Oct. 13 and 15 he found horse feces everywhere on the properties where the horses were housed on Wise and Symons roads, both in East Lackawannock Township. The 29 horses owned by Stickney and Rust had filthy water and moldy hay and grain, Swartz said.

Drabick said the horses that have been treated have had thousands of dollars in vet care already and believes this will prove that they were in dire need of care.

“They’re under constant veterinary care, each and every one of them,” Drabick said. “Their diets are being adjusted and they’re getting good quality hay and grain and a clean supply of water constantly.”

Stickney said he and Rust had all the horses under a veterinarian’s care when they were taken.

“A lot of the things they (the Humane Society) said are false – I don’t think we deserve it,” Stickney said. “The horses they took were under vet care. We just want to make it right.”

Stickney said he’s been taking care of horses for 40 years. He buys horses and saddle-trains them for other people who eventually buy the horses from him.

Circumstances were such that the horses didn’t get saddle-trained this summer and, since they have no inside facilities in which to train them, Stickney said he and Rust had to keep the horses over the winter and were going to train them in the spring.

Stickney said although having to hold horses over the winter rarely happens, they’ve never had any problems before.

In the wake of the accusations made by the Humane Society, the owner of the properties where the 29 horses were lodged will not renew the lease and has asked Stickney to move out.

“We’ve totally remodeled the barn at home to take care of the horses when they get back home,” Stickney said.

But right now, Stickney said he has no idea where the horses are or how they’re doing.

“They depend on me; I’m there every day,” Stickney said. “It’s like having 29 kids – they all have their own personalities, they’re all lovable and gentle.”

Although part of Stickney’s livelihood has been taken away, he said he and Rust are managing. He said the horses taken were all the horses he owned.

“I drive truck for a living,” Stickney said. “My vacation is in the barn or messing with the horses – that’s what I enjoy.”