By Clair McFarland, General Assignment Reporter
A Riverton woman accused of starving horses, goats, geese, chickens and sheep – some to death – has agreed to plead guilty to four counts of animal cruelty, according to court documents.
Each count is punishable by up to six months in jail and $750 in fines, allowing a sentence of up to two years and $3,000 in fines total.
Kathy Wright, 50, was charged in December after Fremont County Sheriff’s Deputies found more than a dozen animal corpses on her property and numerous starved animals still alive, according to the evidentiary affidavit filed in the case.
The state filed 10 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty against Wright.
She now has made a plea agreement in which she promised to give Alford guilty pleas for four of the 10 counts so that the state will drop the other six, according to a motion for a change-of-plea hearing filed March 3.
An Alford plea is treated like a guilty plea in court but is not an admission of guilt. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that the state has enough evidence to convict the defendant.
Wright is scheduled to change her plea from “not guilty” to the Alford plea in May.
Dead Goats Here And There
Fremont County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Sarah Trehearne met Deputy Sara Lowe at Wright’s property, 54 David’s Way in Riverton, just after noon Dec. 7 after Lowe found several dead goats in pens. Some were freshly deceased while others, the affidavit says, were in various stages of decomposition.
Sheriff’s office deputies have an “extensive” history of animal cruelty calls for Wright’s property, according to the affidavit.
Lowe also saw a horse that needed “immediate veterinary care,” and described the animals as emaciated. There were sheep and goats in “deplorable” conditions and two pens containing skeletal-looking horses, the affidavit says.
Trehearne knocked at Wright’s door. No one answered.
Trehearne walked among the animals to see how they were doing and found between 10 and 20 dead animals, some of which were still warm as though they’d died that day, the affidavit says.
None had food or water. There were three bales of hay on the property, “however this was not nearly enough to feed all the animals for even one feeding,” the affidavit says.
Don’t Kill Them With Alfalfa
Dr. Guna Gamble of G Bar G Veterinary Hospital arrived to do an emergency assessment.
She said two of the goats had died that day and studying them would provide valuable insight into how the animals died.
Gamble told law enforcement agents to feed the animals a little, but not too much because they were so malnourished and overfeeding could shock their systems. She also said not to feed them the “straight alfalfa” bales on the property because they needed grass hay.
Law enforcement agents also watered the livestock with a hose they found on the property, and the animals drank immediately as though they were “all very thirsty,” the affidavit states.
Trehearne called Wright on the phone, who said her goats may have been dying of chlamydia, and that a vet at the state fair had diagnosed them, according to the affidavit.
Trehearne followed up with vets in the area and tried to confirm the state-fair vet’s diagnosis. But no vets would confirm that they’d given a diagnosis, the document says, and they also said they would no longer do business with Wright.
Wright told Trehearne that she owned the “very thin horse” but did not know what was wrong with it. She said she was planning on getting it wormed and treated, then quarantined at her mother’s home across the street, the affidavit says.
Wright owned nine of the 11 horses on her property, she told Trehearne. Her mother reportedly owned the other two. Wright said she owned all the geese, chicken, sheep and goats.
The affidavit says Wright thanked Trehearne for feeding and watering her animals and asked her to make sure the hose was drained.
Trehearne seized multiple dead goats and took them to the G Bar G Veterinary Hospital for necropsy and analysis.
Dr. Glenn Gamble performed necropsies on two goats and said he believed they died of starvation. There were no fat deposits between the skin and muscle of their rib cages, no fat around their internal organs and no fat survival reserves, the affidavit relates.
Gamble also found fresh feed in their guts but no evidence of older feed, suggesting they may have had a metabolic shock from having a meal after a long period of starvation.
The Fremont County Attorney’s Office on Dec. 20 expanded its case against Wright from two animal cruelty charges to 10. They are:
- Count one, for more than 20 dead sheep and goats
- Count two, for a dead red roan Nubian doe and a dead cream-colored Nigerian dwarf buck
- Count three, for cruelty toward nine horses, a sorrel gelding with a club foot, two bay mares, two red-and-white paint geldings, one roan mare, one roan gelding, one bay paint pony and one bay filly pony
- Count four, for cruelty toward a red and white paint gelding
- Count five, for cruelty toward 37 doe goats
- Count six, for cruelty toward a doe goat with mastitis (infection related to breastfeeding)
- Count seven, for cruelty toward seven buck goats
- Count eight, for cruelty toward 18 ewe sheep
- Count nine, for cruelty to four ram sheep
- Count 10, for cruelty toward three geese and 15 chickens