Las Vegas, NV – The owner of an illegal horseback riding organization faced a judge today.
It is the latest development in Speak to 13’s ongoing investigation into Sagebrush Ranch.
Chief Investigator Darcy Spears tells us regardless of whether the lady accused of felony animal cruelty will be held accountable.
Ribs and hip bones sticking out.
Horses hooves severely overgrown and diseased from living in their personal waste.
Mouths full of sores from neglected teeth.
Even blindness from infected eyes.
The images inform the story of the severely neglected Sagebrush Ranch horses. That’s what the state argued in court Monday.
And they are pointing the finger at Jacque Fitzgerald, who owned the horses until Clark County Animal Handle confiscated them in July.
Officer Erica Draeger described the circumstances at Sagebrush Ranch in the course of Fitzgerald’s preliminary hearing.
“Excessive amount of manure, flies that had been brought in by the ammonia from the urine. There was also overcrowding in the stalls.”
She said the horses have been underfed. And their water…
“It was cloudy. There was a lot of mud in it. Just… you would not be able to drink that water.”
The county had to bring in a team of neighborhood service workers to begin clean up.
“We picked up practically a ton of manure and that was just out of the front stalls. We did not even get to reach the back stalls.”
The county took all 36 horses from Sagebrush Ranch after Speak to 13 began investigating allegations of mistreatment made by former workers and consumers.
The company operated without a license for years, providing horseback riding lessons, trail rides and running children’s camps.
In the criminal complaint, the state said the horses endured “unjustified pain and suffering.”
“Some of these injuries were years in the making,” stated Chief Deputy District Attorney Amy Ferreira. “This is not someone who went away for a week, did not check on their horse and then poof, all of a sudden this horse has all these concerns. These factors have been going on and on and on.”
Fitzgerald is facing felony charges for depriving 12 of her horses of food and health-related care. Two were in such negative shape that they had to be euthanized.
“Definitely these animals wouldn’t have had to be place down if they had been appropriately cared for,” Ferreira argued. “You heard the vet say that all of these items had been preventable or at least treatable–neither of which were done in this case.”
Fitzgerald, who’s told the judge she’s suffering from terminal cancer, was pushed into the courtroom in a wheelchair.
She didn’t testify on her own behalf, but her lawyer blamed a lot of the horses issues on Animal Control. Including a single horse that the county had to euthanize after its bowel ruptured, because it had consumed so significantly sand even though foraging for food.
“That could have occurred at any time,” argued Defense Attorney Carrie Hurtik. “That is a typical issue with the horses and it died even though it was in their care.”
As for the foxtails embedded in the horses gums?
“That could have happened in their care,” Hurtik added.
Her attorneys tried to shield her, but we caught up with Fitzgerald as she left the courtroom.
Darcy Spears: Jacque, you chose not to testify, I wonder if you’d just let us know, in basic, what your defense is.
Jacque Fitzgerald: No comment.
Darcy Spears: Would you like to offer you any comment on behalf of your client?
Carrie Hurtik: We’re certain that we will vindicate her at the time of trial. Thank you.
Fitzgerald is due back in court on January eight. And of course, Get in touch with 13 will remain on the case.