Ed. Note: This story ran on the front of yesterday’s edition, but did not continue to the inside. Here is the story in its entirety. The Garden Island regrets the error.
LIHU‘E — More than a year after the Kaua‘i Humane Society confiscated 16 thin horses from the Wailua Falls area, the owner of the animals will stand trial later this month on 16 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.
Earlier this week, Fifth Circuit Court Judge Randal Valenciano denied a motion to suppress evidence that had been gathered at the time of the confiscation.
Prior to a hearing on the matter, Dr. Becky Rhoades, the former executive director for the humane society, said that denial would be crucial to the case against horse owner Lara Butler-Brady.
“If we lose this … they lose the whole case and we’ll have to give the horses back,” Rhoades said at the time.
During the hearing, she testified to the condition of the horses. Although a few were in good to fair condition, she described the majority as thin or emaciated. A humane officer also testified that the equines had little access to water.
“I think she should go to jail,” Rhoades said. “I think it’s criminal what happened. It’s one of the saddest sights I’ve ever seen.”
Attorney Craig De Costa said the motion to suppress evidence and statements included the investigation leading up to the warrant, as well as the warrant itself, which was executed on May 30, 2010. On that day, a crew from KHS confiscated the horses on land rented by Butler-Brady. A complaint sparked the investigation leading to the warrant.
Following Valenciano’s decision, interim executive director Orianna Skomoroch and Elizabeth Freitas, the first vice president of the KHS board of directors, said they are happy to see the case move forward. It’s set for trial on June 27.
“I think our No. 1 goal is the safety of the horses,” Freitas said. “We’d like to see the horses adopted out to good homes.”
Freitas said she hopes to see Butler-Brady be prevented from owning horses and to pay restitution. According to The Garden Island’s archives on the matter, it costs between $200 and $300 a month to take care of each horse, including feed, medication and pasturing.
Skomoroch said the decision means Kaua‘i Humane Society will continue to care for the horses and will prepare for trial.
“We want to get these horses into good homes,” she said.
Butler-Brady, who said she believes she’s been targeted by the humane society, said she may appeal the judge’s decision, as she contends that KHS staff trespassed on her land, violated her privacy rights, refused to leave when asked and failed to Mirandize her at the time of the investigation and warrant execution.
“I’m totally a victim here, my life has been ruined, my business has been taken from me,” said the owner of Keapana Horsemanship.
She added her horses couldn’t possibly have been starving, as they had three miles of property to graze on, along with reservoirs where they could drink and swim.
“I won’t back down because this is wrong and I’m a victim,” Butler-Brady said.
“I want my horses back and I’ve been ruined.”
• Jessica Musicar, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.