Evidence of deplorable conditions, lack of food and water and evidence of starving animals moved Hillsboro Municipal Court Judge David McKenna to order the immediate removal of emaciated horses, cattle and dogs from a residence north of Highland on Thursday.
Johnny Rains Jr., whose residence is at 13045 SR 72, entered a plea of not guilty to one count of animal cruelty in Hillsboro Municipal Court Thursday morning.
Highland County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control Division Officer Cathy Seifer told The Times-Gazette that she requested McKenna sign an order that the animals couldn’t remain on the property.
She said Rains faced a similar situation recently where he was ordered to surrender all the animals he kept on a property that he owned in Clinton County.
What precipitated Thursdays mass removal of animals, she said, were three phone calls received by her office from passers by reporting on the conditions of horses they had seen from the road, and when she piad a visit to the property on Wednesday she decided to pursue legal action.
Her office has been dealing with the actions of Rains for the last several years, Seifer said, adding that in the beginning he didn’t have as many animals.
“In the beginning, he would follow through what we asked, things like having bedding, taking care of them, insuring they have proper food, that kind of thing,” she said. “And then the next time we’d be called out here, there would be more animals and worse conditions.”
Particularly upsetting to Seifer was an incident she related that occurred three weeks ago where Rains is alleged to have confined a horse that was less than a year old in a barn without food and water, and allowed it starve to death.
She made the further allegation that Rains allowed dogs to live in the barn and due to the fact he never fed them, the dogs ate the carcass of the dead horse.
“There are also dogs at the back of the property,” Seifer said. “Due to no food or water, they actually attacked one of the dogs and began eating on it before it was even deceased.”
McKenna’s order mandated that all of the animals on Rains’ property be removed, which Seifer said was done throughout the afternoon and early evening Thursday by various animal rescue groups in the area, under coordination from Tri-State County Area Response Team (CART), a non-profit animal rescue agency.
According to its website — tristatecart.com — the organization educates and trains volunteers to prepare for and respond to any local area, natural and manmade disaster that would occur in the 31 designated counties of the Cincinnati tri-state area and when activated, provide temporary care and shelter for any impacted animals.
“They got everything together,” she said. “We got a veterinarian on-site to assess the conditions of all the animals on the property before we could remove them, and they brought in the volunteers.”
Seifer said there were a total of 16 horses, 13 cattle and between 28 and 32 dogs, including a mother with nine puppies, that were removed from the property Thursday.
“We know the mother had 13 puppies, but we don’t know what happened to four of them,” she said.
Rains will be back in McKenna’s courtroom for a pretrial hearing on August 1 at 10 a.m.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.