By BRAD KELLAR
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.
Littlefield said the probation was stacked onto the end of the jail sentence, in order to prevent Holtzman from being involved with any animals for as long as possible.
“In order to accomplish this goal, I required that Mr. Holtzman accept that maximum probationary term that included very strict conditions that severely restrict his ability to possess animals,” Littlefield said.
Under the conditions, Holtzman is forbidden to own, care for or possess any animals except for nine dogs and one bird in his current possession, must have those animals examined by a veterinarian and must provide photographs of each of the animals to the probation department within 30 days. Holtzman is also prohibited from breeding the animals or seeking employment in any profession which requires the ownership, care, or possession of any animals.
Donath pleaded guilty to two counts of animal cruelty and was placed on 24 months of probation on each count, and was also required to follow most of the same special conditions which were applied to Holtzman.
Both Holtzman and Donath also signed a final civil judgment which ruled they committed animal cruelty and ordered the couple to surrender the ownership of the horses to Habitat for Horses.
Littlefield praised the involvement of the organization, the sheriff’s office and all those who acted in conjunction with the seizure.
“Without the efforts of these individuals, we would not have been able to seize the animals, punish Mr. Holtzman for his actions, and protect other animals from any future abuse by Mr. Holtzman,” Littlefield said.