LAURINBURG — A Gibson man was found guilty Tuesday of 11 counts of animal cruelty — one for each malnourished or mistreated horse seized from his home in April.
Scotland County District Court Judge Amanda Wilson handed down the ruling against Alexander Goode after several hours of testimony that continued from the original July 22 trial date.
Witnesses testified that Goode’s horses showed signs of anemia and dehydration, and examinations revealed the presence of sand in their digestive tracts. Some of the horses also had skin abrasions from competing with the others for limited food in a small area. No feed or hay was located on Goode’s property when the horses were seized, according to witnesses.
“There is absolutely no excuse for what happened,” Assistant District Attorney Ashely Wellman said in her closing argument on Tuesday. “These horses were not just thin; they were completely emaciated.”
Wilson sentenced Goode to five years of supervised probation, during which period he may not have horses on his property, and ordered him to relinquish all 11 horses to the county, undergo a mental health assessment, and make restitution to the county of $19,529 to compensate for the cost of rehabilitating his horses.
The case went to trial after county animal control officer Marc Brown received a complaint on April 24 about three horses who had been contained in a stock trailer on Goode’s property since the previous day. Brown was one of seven witnesses to provide evidence for the state in July.
Upon entering the Windy Hill Farm Road property rented by Goode, Brown said he discovered three horses tied without food or water in a livestock trailer. He also found eight horses in a paddock to the rear of the house. No food or clean water was available for the horses in the paddock, who all appeared to be in various stages of starvation.
Brown, along with two veterinarians who examined the horses, testified last month that the eight horses in Goode’s paddock, along with two of the three in the stock trailer, were severely underweight.
Witnesses also testified that the water available to the horses was contaminated by algae growth, that the horses’ coats were matted, unkempt, and infested by lice, and that their hooves were brittle and overgrown.
Among the horses seized were two pregnant mares, who have since foaled at foster facilities. Lisa Kivett, an Aberdeen equine veterinarian, testified in July that both mares were unable to provide sufficient milk to nourish their newborn foals, whose diets have been supplemented with commercial milk replacer.
In the three months since being removed from Goode’s care, the horses have returned to health at foster farms, according to equine veterinarian Laura Kellam, an assistant professor at St. Andrews University.
On Tuesday, public defender Laraque Stewart called four witnesses to the stand: farmer William Bethea, who had regularly sold hay and grain to Goode, Goode’s 10-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter, and Goode himself.
“Mr. Goode had a habit of coming to me when he got his tax return in March or February and pre-paying for a year’s worth of hay and feed,” said Bethea, who testified that his last delivery to Goode, in January, was of five large hay bales.
Bethea also said that he had expected Goode to purchase additional hay and feed later in the year.
Goode’s children responded to questions from both sides, testifying that they fed the horses with their father every day, even going out late at night if they forgot to feed at the usual time.
Wellman approached Goode’s daughter, who said that she cleaned the horses’ water troughs daily, with a photo taken during the seizure of green, algae-infested water. The witness responded that the water had been soiled by one of the horses, who habitually pawed in the troughs.
When called to the stand, Goode provided an overview of his history as a horse owner, beginning with the purchase of his stallion, Buddy, in 2012.
“I didn’t know nothing about feeding horses, so I had to learn, just like I learned how to ride,” said Goode, who testified that he found most of his information online.
Having noticed a few of his horses losing weight at the end of February, and supposing that parasites were the cause, Goode said that he administered dewormer during the first week of March. On Tuesday, Stewart provided the receipts for the deworming products as evidence.
Goode testified that he ran out of feed and hay in early April, about two weeks before the horses were seized. After that, he said that he let his horses out of their enclosures for several hours each day to eat vegetation on the property.
Goode also said that he obtained grain from Bethea to feed his horses after he ran out of hay, contradicting Bethea’s statement that he last did business with Goode in January.
Called to the stand for a second time on Tuesday after testifying in July, Kellam said that the variety of dewormer Goode claimed to have given his horses should have addressed their external parasites.
“What I question is the amount of lice infestation in the younger horses,” she said. “Deworming with that kind of systemic dewormer would actually get rid of lice.”
Kellam also testified that she discussed parasites and good horsekeeping practices with Goode at length in September 2013, after animal control called her to his Leisure Road residence about a dying horse. An animal cruelty charge filed against Goode in that horse’s death was later dismissed.
Stewart argued that Goode did not intentionally starve his horses, and that the monies he spent on hay and grain since 2012 — as described by Bethea — as well as his efforts to deworm them were not the “acts of somebody who would intentionally deprive his horses.”
“He believed that he was taking care of his horses to the best of his ability,” Stewart said.
Goode, who intends to appeal Tuesday’s ruling, is also prohibited from making contact with any of the state’s witnesses or any of the individuals housing the seized horses.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.