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Local News

July 20, 2007

Couple pleads guilty to animal cruelty charges

A Greenville-area couple has pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges regarding dozens of mistreated horses seized from a ranch near Cash last month.

Richard Holtzman and Kathy Donath both entered the guilty pleas Wednesday afternoon. Holtzman was sentenced to a combination of time in the Hunt County Jail and probation, while Donath, who reportedly lived with Holtzman at the ranch, was placed on probation. The pair also agreed to surrender custody of the horses to an animal rescue organization, according to Hunt County Attorney Joel Littlefield.

“Animal cruelty will not be tolerated in this county,” Littlefield said in a statement. “I believe that this sentence sends a strong message; that is, if you engage in animal cruelty in Hunt County, you will go to jail. I believe that the citizens of this county expect no less.”

The Humane Society of North Texas joined with Hunt County Sheriff’s officers on June 26 in removing 73 horses and two donkeys from the ranch off of County Road 2208. Habitat for Horses, a Texas-based horse rescue organization, coordinated the removal of the horses from the property to an undisclosed location, after allegations were raised that the horses were being starved and/or mistreated.

Holtzman had filed a civil suit, seeking the transfer of the criminal proceedings to a state district court in Hunt County. Holtzman has also asked for the prosecution to be handled through the office of District Attorney F. Duncan Thomas, as well as for more than $1 million in damages and/or the return of the horses.

Instead, Holtzman pleaded guilty Wednesday in the Hunt County Court-at-Law to four counts of animal cruelty. Under a plea bargain arrangement, Holtzman was sentenced by Judge J. Andrew Bench to six months in jail on three of the charges, was placed on two years of probation on the fourth count and was fined $1,000.

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