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Longview man fined, jailed on animal cruelty charges

By Sarah Thomas sthomas@news-journal.com
June 12, 2013 at 11 p.m.

A Longview man was fined and jailed Wednesday on animal cruelty charges in connection with the seizure last week of an emaciated horse found wandering near Eastman Road.

Brian Fite appeared before Judge Arthur Fort during a hearing to decide whether Fite's paint stallion would remain at Safe Haven Equine Rescue or be returned to its owner.

Fite told the judge he spends most of his time working out of town and had paid someone to feed and water the horse.

He also told the judge his horse was a prize-winning stallion that had won several ribbons at trail rides and rodeos.

But pictures presented in court showed anything but an award-winning horse.

The pictures were of a 600-pound stallion that experts said should've tipped the scales at more than 1,000 pounds.

"I'm an old horse man myself, and I wouldn't want anyone taking my horse. This is a delicate situation. Under the circumstances I'm going to issue the warrant for the horse to be seized," Fort told the defendant before ordering him to pay $531 in restitution to Safe Haven Equine Rescue for feeding and sheltering the horse since it was first removed from Fite's care June 3.

The prosecution called several witnesses, including Longview animal control officers Jacqueline Lynch and Chris Kemper, who testified the horse was "extremely thin" in "extremely poor" condition and "extremely malnourished."

Fite's arrest stems from May 31 when a passerby stopped to help the horse after noticing it standing in the middle of Eastman Road near McCarver Street.

The woman reported the loose horse to Longview police who notified animal control.

Animal control officers returned to the property three days later and found the horse had been tied to a tree without feed, grass, shelter or water and was severely underweight, according to animal control officers and James Crittenden, an investigator for the Gregg County District Attorney's Office.

Richard Fincher, executive director for Safe Haven Equine Rescue Center, testified Wednesday the horse was close to death when he rescued the animal from a small pin in the 200 block of McCarver Street.

"(The horse) was anemic (having decreased blood cells). We checked his gums, and he was dehydrated. The bones in his hips, withers (shoulders), ribs were showing ... Hooves are supposed to grow smooth. You could tell he was lacking protein because his hooves were cracked," Fincher testified.

After looking at pictures of the horse, Fite said, "I've never had an animal look like this. And looking at these pictures, I don't blame someone for being concerned and taking the horse. I'm asking for myself. If you give me a chance to get my horse back, I can provide the necessary feed, the necessary water and the necessary hay for it. This is my kids' horse."

Fite's wife interrupted the proceedings several times to say she was the one responsible for feeding the horse.

"I keep the feed in my truck. I can't afford to feed two horses," she said, claiming another horse close to the property was stealing the food.

Fite contradicted his wife, testifying he hired a "man who was supposed to go out there and feed the horse."

He said the unidentified man was supposed to be in court to back up his story.

After Fite was arrested, Fort said he was hesitant to issue the seizure warrant but felt the evidence spoke volumes about the mistreatment of the animal.

"The evidence showed the horse wasn't being properly cared for. Then later testimony showed the wife was busy and didn't have time to take care of it," Fort said.

The horse will remain in quarantine at Safe Haven for the next 14 days and should fully recover in about six months, Fincher said.



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