SHENANGO TOWNSHIP and WEST VIRGINIA —
A former Shenango Township woman who in 2008 sought help trying to find out who killed her blind pony Kahlua is in jail in West Virginia on animal cruelty charges stemming from dead and malnourished horses found on her land.
Tory Morgan, 41, of Reedy W.Va., who leased a pasture at state Route 318 and Bethel-Wilmington Road before she moved in August, is scheduled to go to trial April 17 before Magistrate Ronald W. White in Spencer, Lt. Jeff Smith of the Roane County Sheriff’s Department said Friday.
Morgan was charged Jan. 23 with 36 counts of animal cruelty and is in Central Regional Jail, Sutton, on $90,000 bond.
Twenty horses seized from her property are under the care of the sheriff’s department at a livestock market in Spencer, Deputy Todd Cole said.
According to the criminal complaint:
Smith and two animal health inspectors from the West Virginia Division of Agriculture went to Morgan’s home Jan. 18 to investigate reports of dead and starving horses.
She gave them permission to inspect her property, where the men found 14 dead and decaying horses. At least six more of the 42 horses she had were dead - someone shot them in late October, Morgan said; she didn’t report it to police.
Fourteen of the 20 living horses were examined and all but two were in “very poor physical condition” with protruding ribs, backbones and hips and “severely malnourished.”
Two other horses were later found dead on the property.
Morgan said she fed the horses two bales of hay and 50 pounds of grain a day. Smith saw eight hay bales but the only place he found any grain was in the bottom of a trash can, about a foot of feed. Morgan couldn’t produce any receipts for the feed but said she bought $2,000 or $3,000 worth each month.
She brought 42 horses with her from Pennsylvania in August, but couldn’t show proof of testing required by West Virginia to transport horses across state lines.
Dr. Jewell Plumley, a state veterinarian, told Smith the horses were malnourished and needed to be dewormed.
Smith said he couldn’t speculate on whether Morgan’s horses were in bad shape when she lived in Shenango Township, where the Humane Society of Mercer County investigated reports of neglect after Kahlua’s death.
Morgan, who raised, bred and trained horses, believed Kahlua had been dragged by an all-terrain vehicle.
Necropsy results were inconclusive but it was determined he didn’t die from natural causes because his injuries included cuts, scrapes and patches of missing skin and hair. State police made no arrests in the case.
Neglect reports against Morgan stemmed from “lots of calls” off and on since 2008, Humane Agent Renee Dorogy said Tuesday.
“We kept a close eye on her because of the publicity,” but there was no evidence of neglect or cruelty that would have warranted citations or charges.
“She always had food. When we were called, there was nothing of any cruelty,” Dorogy said.
There were three horses “on the thin side” and Dorogy checked with Morgan’s veterinarian, who said they were having trouble gaining weight because of their older age and one had an abscess; the weight loss wasn’t from a lack of food or care, Dorogy said, declining to name the doctor.
Mary Rakoci, a former humane agent who represented Mercer County in the 1970s and continued animal welfare work in Pittsburgh that included investigations of cruelty claims against horses, disagrees with Dorogy’s findings.
“They were definitely being neglected,” she said Thursday.
The Hermitage woman left numerous messages with the Humane Society over the last few years, urging them to check out Morgan’s horses. She had been to the pasture herself many times and was horrified by the conditions.
Some horses were thin or had visible injuries like cuts and sores and the hay bales were wet, which makes them moldy and unfit for consumption. She never saw a bag of grain on the property.
During a visit in March, Rakoci saw some horses eating bark off the trees and some with open wounds, but she never crossed paths with Morgan.
News of Morgan’s alleged neglect of horses in West Virginia “broke my heart,” Rakoci said.
That case could have been prevented if the Humane Society had taken action against Morgan, Rakoci said.
If convicted, Morgan could be ordered to pay for the cost of the horses’ care after their seizure.
Under West Virginia law, animal cruelty is a misdemeanor but rises to a felony if animals were intentionally hurt or killed. A felony conviciton could include fines and a prison sentence.