The Clintonville woman whose five malnourished horses triggered complaints from neighbors and a county investigation now faces criminal charges.
Barbara Thiry, 71, was charged with 15 misdemeanor counts of intentionally mistreating animals, failing to provide food and failing to provide shelter.
She faces up to nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine on each count.
“The horses are safe and are being kept at a ranch at an undisclosed location at this time to protect the horses,” according to Detective Sgt. Robert Karski with the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office.
Karski said the person who is now caring for Thiry’s horses also owns horses and has worked with other law enforcement agencies on similar cases in the surrounding counties.
Thiry’s former farm in Kewaunee
Karski, who took charge of the investigation in early September, contacted the sheriff’s office in Kewaunee County, where Thiry had once owned a farm.
He learned that deputies there had numerous contacts with Thiry because she had been keeping her horses on property which did not belong to her. She had also been cited several times for issuing worthless checks, according to the criminal complaint.
Karski also spoke with Geof Krauss, who purchased Thiry’s Kewaunee farm after she was evicted due to nonpayment of taxes in September 2009.
“He told me that he has been cleaning the barn out recently and found a horse skeleton buried under manure that he said was approximately 4 1/2 feet deep,” Karski told the County Post.
Karski said the new owner also found four horse heads; some scattered on the floor of the house and one out by the barn.
“He had torn the residence down shortly after purchasing it as it was in really bad condition,” Karski said.
Karski also contacted Tracy Keifer of Lakewood Horse Farm. She had boarded five horses, along with several goats, for Thiry in 2011.
Keifer told Karski she had to evict Thiry after only a few months because she did not pay her rent.
Keifer also showed Karski photographs of the five horses Thiry kept at her farm before moving them to Clintonville. At that time, they appeared healthy, according to the criminal complaint.
Complaints lead to investigation
Between January and September, Waupaca County deputies were called out four times to investigate Thiry’s horses. Neighbors reported the horses were not adequately fed, needed better shelter and needed medical attention.
Thiry was renting space for the horses on a farm on U.S. Highway 45 north of Clintonville.
On July 19, Deputy Patrick Gorchals served Thiry an abatement order, giving her five days to have a veterinarian check on the horses and provide a report on their condition.
Dr. Peter Drehmann, with United Veterinary Services in Bear Creek, contacted Gorchals and reported the “horses meet a reasonable standard of care.”
In September, Karski took over the investigation in response to hundreds of complaints regarding Thiry’s horses being posted on the Internet, as well as on the sheriff department’s own Facebook page.
Karski met with Thiry and Drehmann at the farm on Sept. 3.
According to the criminal complaint, Drehmann went over his findings with Karski and concluded the feed and care for the horses were reasonable. However, he noted some health problems which needed to be addressed.
The thinnest horse, a 26-year-old Palimino mare named Lady was missing teeth and had a cut on her tongue. Ruby, a 25-year-old mare, had heaves, a bronchial respiratory problem that was contributing to her malnourishment.
All five horses were kept in a single, small shelter. A 2-year-old stud named 2 Socks and an 18-year-old stallion named BiBi were not separated from the older mares.
On Sept. 4, Karski met with Michael Johnson, owner of the property where Thiry was keeping her horses.
Johnson said he had already served Thiry with an eviction notice because she owed him $1,500 in back rent.
On Sept. 6, Karski issued an abatement order that required Thiry to provide adequate shelter for all five horses, separately house Lady from the rest of the herd and feed her according to a regimen prescribed by Drehmann and separate 2 Socks from the mares.
Thiry was given 10 days to comply with the abatement order.
A second medical opinion
On Sept. 10, Karski and Deputy Peter Bosquez met with Thiry and another veterinarian, Dr. Erica Esser, for a second evaluation of the horses.
Esser found serious medical problems, the complaint says.
The veterinarian scored the body conditions of the horses. She used a scoring system that ranges from 1/9 for extremely emaciated to 5/9 for healthy to 9/9 for extremely fat.
Ruby’s score was 2/9, which indicates she was very thin and emaciated.
Esser recommended that Ruby’s food be placed on a mat or someplace off the ground because the sand on the ground was exasperating her heaves.
Lady also had a 2/9 score, while Rebecca and BiBi had scores of 3/9 and 2 Socks had a score of 4.5/9.
Esser also said the horses needed to have their teeth floated, a treatment that fills teeth in order to eliminate sharp edges and uneven sizes.
She described the horses hooves as long and cracked and in need of trimming.
Esser described the three-sided shelter where the horses were staying as too small for four horses and more appropriate for one or two horses.
“Malnutrition paired with lack of necessary veterinary care … has been occurring on the order of months to years,” Esser reported.
A stricter abatement order
On Sept. 12, Karski issued amendments to the abatement order.
Thiry was ordered to immediately take the feeding and watering measures recommended by Esser and within 24 hours schedule appointments for dental and hoof care for each horse to be provided within seven days. Thiry was also ordered to provide adequate shelter within five days.
On Sept. 16, Karski met with Thiry and spoke with Drehmann, who said he floated the horses’ teeth.
On Sept. 17, Karski returned to the Clintonville farm and found Thiry’s attempt at providing separate shelter for Lady was to tie a tarp to the gate panels. He informed Thiry that he did not consider the tarp to be adequate shelter.
Karski also found that Thiry had failed to have the horses’ hooves trimmed. She told the detective she was still waiting for a ferrier to come out.
On Sept. 19, Karski found that the tarp had blown loose from its ties.
On Sept. 20, Karski spoke with a farmer who was helping Thiry by taking Lady. Karski inspected the farm and concluded, “The farmer has animals of his own and had plenty of room for Lady and potentially the other four horses.”
For the next two weeks, Karski, Bosquez and Deputy Shane Bazile made almost daily trips to inspect the horses and collect evidence. It was during this time that Karski learned about what had been found on Thiry’s farm in Kewaunee.
On Oct. 2, Karski checked on the horses again and found their hooves had still not been trimmed.
He forwarded his report to the district attorney’s office and charges were filed on Oct. 9.
Thiry was scheduled for an initial court appearance on Tuesday, Oct. 15.