Woman Charged with Animal Cruelty AgainPosted: Updated:
A decade-old case of animal cruelty is playing out again in Augusta County. The former director of an equine center in Staunton who had 19 horses taken away in the 1990's now has more horses in her care and faces a new animal cruelty charge.
We counted at least a dozen horses in the field and we saw someone driving around checking on them. But this new case comes down to one dead horse and its owner who is familiar with an arrest warrant for animal cruelty.
"You can see ribs, you can see hip bones," pointed out Brigette Berbes, who cared for one of the horses. "They're all underweight."
That's what Berbes sees when she looks out onto the field of horses on Shaner Lane Farm. But it's what she saw in the same field two weeks ago while riding her motorcycle on an interstate overpass that stopped her in her tracks.
"From the road, I called to her. She couldn't pick up her head," recalled Berbes.
Berbes says the thin 20-year-old mare was covered in a thick blanket on a hot, spring day. "She had obviously been there awhile. I'm just sorry i didn't see her sooner," saod Berbes.
Berbes called Augusta County Animal Control and contacted the horse's owner, Terry Lynn Sullivan. "She signed the horse over to me as long as she didn't have any financial responsibility," said Berbes.
Berbes called her vet, but that wasn't enough. The mare, who she named Harley, died the next morning. A preliminary report from a state lab classifies Harley's death as a possible case of starvation.
"Bottom line is these horses are not being cared for. This is a repeat offense," stated Berbes.
NBC29 video from 1996 shows the same Terry Lynn Sullivan operating a similarly named Fern Leigh Foundation. At that time, she was charged with depriving more than a dozen horses of proper food and care.
"It's like déjà vu all over again," remarked Pam Powell. Powell is Berbes' mother and she volunteers with the Augusta SPCA. Shehelped rescue the horses seized from Sullivan.
"They were all in the same condition. It was just, it was just heart-wrenching," shared Powell.
Sullivan was convicted on one animal cruelty charge and fined from that case. Powell says one more misdemeanor charge this time around isn't enough.
Powell says, "This is the second time around. And I don't know how many more have to die before someone will do something permanently."
Berbes watched the community come together to care for the horses a decade ago. Now, she's hoping that repeats itself to save another horse from Harley's fate.
"It's just bad. They need to be taken out of here. Somebody needs to do something," stressed Berbes.
Sullivan is scheduled to appear in court on that cruelty charge May 1. A county spokesman tells NBC29 that animal control will be out examining the rest of the horses and that the investigation continues.
We called Sullivan and left messages. Our calls have not been returned.