Neighbors say horses starved to death while Tuscaloosa Sheriff's Office ignored complaints
TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, Ala. —
Update (1/3): The horses found alive on Elrod Road are recovering well after being taken into custody by the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office.
*Warning: Graphic content and photos*
An alarming case of animal cruelty allegations in Tuscaloosa County ended with several horses seized and a number found dead in a pasture.
Neighbors on Elrod Road tell ABC 33/40 News they believe if Tuscaloosa authorities had acted on their complaints earlier, the animals would be alive.
The owner of the property and horses, Daryl Shane Pate, was arrested on seven warrants for felony aggravated animal cruelty on Tuesday night.
Sheriff's deputies had arrived on scene Saturday after reports there were dead horses on the property. Pate was arrested at the time for failing to bury livestock. He was released on bond. The animal cruelty charges Pate was arrested on Tuesday night were later filed after a veterinarian examined the horses.
Saturday neighbor Kendell Holman called authorities and posted video on Facebook as units arrived. He and other neighbors say they called the county sheriff's office several times over the past months asking for an investigation. They say they believe Pate has gotten "preferential treatment." Over the past several weeks they have shared emails they sent to authorities including the Tuscaloosa County District Attorney's office which had promised action.
ABC 33/40 News was first contacted by a neighbor back in July of last year concerned about the horses. The Tuscaloosa Sheriff's Office public information officer told us at the time that Pinewood Farm owners Shane and Milisa Pate were charged in June with cruelty to animals and the court along with a veterinarian were monitoring the horses.
Then after another complaint came to us in early December, an ABC 33/40 News crew went to Elrod. Milisa Pate tried to order us off the public right of way on Elrod Road. Minutes later her husband Shane approached us. He claimed one of the horses was so thin because it was 25 years old.
He would not allow us to look inside the barn or to look around his property. The horses we saw outside were wet, cold and confined to small muddy pens. Shane Pate said he planned to sell most of the horses that week.
ABC3340 News again contacted the Tuscaloosa Sheriff's Office. We also tried to reach the District Attorney handling the original Pate case, but did not hear back prior to publication. We called the veterinarian's office that was supposed to be monitoring the horses. We were told confidentiality rules kept them from commenting.
Saturday (Dec. 30th) deputies were dispatched to the property after the report of dead animals. Nine horses and a donkey were seized and are now being cared for by the sheriff's office. Community members are thankful action was finally taken, but say they question why it took so long. In the words of one neighbor, "we've never seen a criminal treated that well."
Pinewood Farms was once a well known breeding farm for horses.