A Track Record of Neglect – Eugene Weekley

Kristi Horton, MD, a PeaceHealth physician, pleaded guilty Nov. 1 in Eugene Municipal Court to a single count of first-degree animal neglect involving her three Great Dane boys. The city of Eugene dropped two remaining charges as part of a plea bargain.

Horton was accused of animal cruelty, but never convicted, 17 years ago in Washington state.

The city of Eugene took in three Great Danes and 11 Horton horses, and they consulted local agencies and nonprofit organizations to offer care and safe placements for the animals. Lane County Animal Services accompanied Eugene Animal Services to the property to help evaluate the horses, due to the county’s experience with larger animals.

“The condition of the three Great Danes from the Eugene estate was very sad,” says Sasha Elliott, director of operations for the Greenhill Humane Society. “They were found to have cuts and scars on their bodies consistent with possible previous traumatic injuries, there was excrement piled on their feet, and a general stench of excrement permeated them. Their nails were thick, brittle and in some cases enlarged, sometimes twisted to the side.”

Police reports about Eugene’s property described parts of it as being covered in dog feces and an “extreme hoarding situation” that required Hazmat crews to clean up.

Elliott says all three dogs exhibit severe dental disease, a lack of socialization, and separation anxiety.

Horton’s 11 horses performed equally poorly on examination.

One horse had a body condition score of 4, one with a BCS of 3.5, five horses with a BCS of 3, one with a BCS of 2.5 and three with a BCS of 2, according to Sound Equine Options, a nonprofit horse rescue organization.

A horse’s BCS is a general indicator of its general health. The optimal range for horse health is between four and six. Horses are scored from 1 (too skinny) to 9 (too overweight).

One of the horses developed an untreated eye sore that appeared to be three to five days old, according to the results of the scan posted by Sound Equine Options on its Facebook page.

“The city’s Department of Animal Control has contacted the Oregon Humane Society to help with how they can best rehom the horses,” says Kim Mossiman, co-founder and CEO of Sound Equine Options. “OHS asked them to contact us. We’ve partnered with OHS on cases of neglect for years, so they know us and trust us.”

She says, “There was a general lack of care.”

Under Oregon law, a person convicted of animal neglect in the first degree may not own any animals of the same sex—in this case dogs—or any pet for five years after being convicted. Horton’s deal stipulates that she cannot own any animals for one year, a ruling that many animal advocates have considered light, especially given Horton’s nearly two-decade history of alleged animal abuse.

She has been placed on leave by PeaceHealth.

“While PeaceHealth does not comment on private legal matters of its employees, Dr. Horton is currently on leave from Peace Harbor Medical Center,” says a PeaceHealth spokesperson. “We hold all caregivers to the same high standards to ensure the safety of our patients.”

Even as defenders deem the plea deal less than adequate, Horton still weeps as she regrets agreeing to it. “I made the mistake of agreeing to the plea bargain and not taking it to court,” she says in a phone interview.

She says she regrets allowing horses to be taken too.

“I was trying to get along with everyone and do things the right way,” says Horton. “Later on, I had to remove all the horses to where they had no access and nobody could find them, and I didn’t do that. I was trying to play by the rules, which was a very bad mistake.”

After a short silence, the doctor added, “Maybe I should change that. Instead of ‘I should have’, I could have had it. Let’s change it to ‘I Maybe Move the horses somewhere no one can find them.

Horton’s story is more than a one-off indiscretion, instead it shows repeat abuses with generally no consequences. The legal handling of animal neglect and cruelty varies from state to state and county to county, creating a favorable situation for repeat offences.

In Linn County, animal neglect is often treated as a violation of the law rather than a criminal offense, which has been criticized as leading to a general lack of enforcement. “You have to be willing to file criminal charges against them, not just violations of the law, because breaking the law won’t stop anyone,” Mosiman says.

Horton’s story of neglect began 17 years ago in King County, Washington.

In July 2005, Washington State filed two criminal complaints against Horton, both for animal cruelty in the second degree. The state issued a notice of hearing on July 29, 2005, but Horton did not appear in court on the scheduled date.

A no-show warrant was issued in August of the same year, which expired in September 2008 due to the state’s statute of limitations. The state reissued the warrant twice more, in 2012 and 2015, but it expired both times. Finally, the state withdrew the warrant in 2016, closing records on the Horton charges.

Horton never went to court in Washington on the charges.

Horton earned her medical license in Oregon as Kristi A. Horton in May 2004, and after a stint at Med-Columbia Medical Center in The Dulles, she transferred to Peace Harbor Medical Center in Florence.

In November 2014, a neighbor filed a complaint with Lane County regarding Horton’s dogs. At the time, she had five Great Danes on her Mapleton property, which the county’s November 20, 2014 complaint response said were “passing through the neighborhood” and “acting in an aggressive manner toward the complainant and a black Labrador.”

According to the same letter, the county received two complaints about Horton’s dogs behaving in a “similar manner” in February 2013 and again in May 2014. Horton was issued a warning.

Mapleton’s neighbors, Vince and Amanda Hendrix-Davis, documented emaciated and bleeding cows on Horton’s property, along with videos of Great Danes attacking a tan and a white cow, in a Facebook post dated May 3, 2017.

Neighbors later added a picture of a dead cow lying in the middle of the field bearing the same color markings, and it is believed to be the same animal that was attacked in the previously recorded video.

The Hendricks-Davis family filed complaints with Linn County on May 6, 2017, detailing the events of May 3 and the subsequent death of their neighbor’s cow.

On the second page of the complaint, Amanda Hendrix-Davis writes: “When I got to my neighbour’s house, I saw three Great Danes pulling and pulling various parts of the cow, which was lying in the mud, still alive but badly exhausted. Then I took out my camera and began recording.” “.

The Hendricks-Davis family preferred not to comment, but provided documentation supporting the claims they made.

The county says it had two contacts related to Horton in 2017, one of which resulted in a dog surrendering.

In the wake of Horton’s recent guilty plea, several individuals in the equestrian community have spoken out. They include Michigan real estate agent and horse breeder Don Spencer.

Spencer, who sold Horton a hot-blooded pony named Rhapsody in 2021, is still furious. Rhapsody was one of 11 horses taken from Horton in late October, and had a BCS of 2 at the time of her rescue. “It infuriates,” says Spencer. “Seriously? Can you torture animals and get a year without them?”

Spencer handled the sale of Rhapsody to Horton as if she had any other client in her eight years of breeding horses. I spoke with Horton on the phone, searched the internet, and found nothing more than what seemed like a perfectly suitable buyer.

“I’ve been in the real estate business for 30 years, so I know how to dig,” says Spencer. “But Kristi had a very public profile as a breeder, and as someone in the horse business. She was very forthcoming and supportive, and even if you didn’t know her, you knew her because she’s been on forums, she’s been on breeders’ websites, and she’s always having a conversation with everyone.”

Spencer says that while responsible breeders do their homework, allegations of abuse and neglect often remain silent in the horse trade, perpetuating the cycle of animal cruelty.

She says money is the reason for that.

“If this is your primary source of income, you’re hanging on by a thread,” says Spencer. “And if you start burning bridges, if you start having a reputation as someone who goes public, you’re going to lose your business.”

Up to this point, seven of the 11 horses have been placed in new homes. The city decides to honor the contract for the sale of another horse allowing her to be returned to her breeders, while three remain in rescue.

The Three Great Danes remain at the Greenhill Humane Society. According to Ashbridge, Lane County Animal Services will be following up on reports of a sighting of a Great Dane on Horton’s Mapleton property.

To donate for horse care, go to GiveGuide.org/nonprofits/sound-equine-options. To learn more about adopting one of the three remaining horses, email [email protected] To contribute to Greenhill Care for Senior Danes, go to Green-hill.org

Below are links to a plea bargain registered with the Eugene Municipal Court and an incident report for the Eugene Police Department describing the condition of the house and yard where the dogs lived.

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