During a hearing Monday, Justice of the Peace Shane Brassell ruled the woman whose animals were seized from a Hill County ranch will not be allowed to keep the animals.
Last week, animal control officers executed a search warrant at an animal rehabilitation ranch run by Caren Brown, following an investigation into malnourished horses. During the raid, officers seized 60 animals from the property. The majority of the animals were horses, and pictures and video suggest some were severely underweight.
According to court records, there were 48 horses seized, along with five donkeys, six dogs and one rabbit. The animals were transported to the Humane Society of North Texas, where four horses have since been euthanized for their deteriorating condition.
"They were in horrible condition," Executive Director Sandy Shelby said. "No animal should have to look like that. They were emaciated and thin. Most have some kind of a hoof or foot or leg injury."
Law enforcement officials said an additional 20 animals were found dead on the property during the search.
The Humane Society has been trying to heal the surviving animals, and the organization's expenses have already reached an estimated $34,810. Monday's court ruling also ordered Brown to pay those expenses. But, County Attorney David Holmes said the state would not collect the money because Brown could not afford it.
"The state will not collect this amount in this action, in the interest of justice," read a handwritten portion of the court order.
Various agencies have been investigating Brown since March. But, Alexis Bright, a close family friend, said Brown took good care of her animals -- blaming the horses being underweight on alleged toxicity problems in the animals' drinking water, adding the horses were receiving veterinary care before they were seized.
"Some of them, yes, they are skin and bones. And, I understand that. That is not right," Bright said. "But, they're not showing the ones that are not skinny, that are fat and healthy. And yeah, maybe they have a leg injury or so, or a bump or a scratch or something, but they're not all skinny."
But, other animal-lovers who knew Brown said she had a history of neglect. One woman who asked not to be identified said she donated a handful of horses to Brown but now regrets her decision.
"I'm heartbroken. I'm so heartbroken," the woman said. "It makes me feel like I did something wrong. I trusted her."
Another woman who agreed to speak publicly was Brown's former neighbor Stacey Carpenter, who shared a fence line with her when Brown housed her horses at another rehab location in Waxahachie.
"Being sent to that rehab would be like a Jew being sent to a Nazi concentration camp," Carpenter said.
Carpenter also told Channel Six the horses were frequently left without water.
The Humane Society of North Texas will now focus on nursing the animals back to health. Once the animals are well, the focus will turn to finding them new homes.
The county attorney said he is still investigating Brown, who may face animal cruelty charges in the near future. But, no charged were filed on Monday.
Concerned animal activists are gathering feed and supplies to donate to the Humane Society on Wednesday. If you would like to donate, you can bring supplies to the La Vega Veterinary Clinic on Tuesday through noon on Wednesday. Items needed include alfalfa hay, feed, lead ropes and wormers, among other things. The clinic is located at 555 E Loop 340 in Waco.