Victims of Neglect

Published 5:39 pm Thursday, June 21, 2012

Troy woman jailed for animal cruelty

A Troy woman is in jail on six counts of cruelty to animals after police recovered severely malnourished horses on her property.

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Tonya Sessions, 34, turned herself in at the Troy Municipal Court Thursday morning.

“All but one of the horses that remained on the property were extremely thin and two of them were in danger of death if someone had not intervened. The horses were in a seriously debilitated state,” said Coffee County Deputy Frank Chirico, a livestock investigator called in by the Troy Police Department to help with the case.

Troy Police were advised in late May that there might be issues with animals on Sessions’ property, but were alerted to the severity of situation Wednesday by a man who had entrusted three horses to Sessions during an extended absence. The man had given Sessions food for the horses and made it known he would provide more, if needed.

When the owner returned from time overseas, he discovered one horse had died and two others were severely malnourished. He removed his two living animals earlier this week.

Chirico, TPD Animal Control and the TPD Detective Division investigated and obtained a court order Wednesday to remove the three remaining horses at a property on Smart Road and one horse at a location on Pike County Road 2294.

“The horses needed to be picked up and relocated because it was obvious no one had been caring for them,” Chirico said. “Those horses had not had grain for some period of time.

“Troy (police) did a good job and they saved these horses’ lives, yesterday.”

Chirico explained that the horses – a bay, a sorrel, a roan and a dun – were ranked “below a three” on a scale used to calculate the body condition of the animals.

“It’s absolute willful neglect,” Troy Police Sgt. Benny Scarbrough said.

“We led one of the horses out of the pasture and had to stop twice to let her breathe,” Chirico recounted. “That’s how bad a shape she was in.”

The horses were taken to an undisclosed location and examined by a veterinarian Thursday morning. Scarbrough said the police department would make sure the animals would be provided what they need to recover.

“This is not something we deal with often,” Scarbrough said. “We don’t have plans, long term, on how we are going to care for these animals, but we are working on it. We are going to do what we have to do to make sure these horses are safe.”

The animals will have to be fed hay and have grain slowly introduced back into their diet because they were so malnourished, Chirico said. Feeding them grain immediately could kill them.

Troy Police Chief Jimmy Ennis said he hopes this action by police sends a message to all animal owners who willfully neglect and harm animals, whether they are the actual owner, or the person responsible for the care of the animal.

Sessions bond was set at a total of $6,000 – $1,000 for each count. She was out on bond by Thursday afternoon.

The case is still under investigation by the Troy Police Department and Sessions should appear in court in July.