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Animal advocates hopeful for future of seized horses

July 29, 2017 GMT

The owner of Schwartz Farms has been ordered to pay over $44,000 in court costs and expenses in an animal cruelty case connected to the seizure of 47 horses and one bull in early July.

Bexar County Justice of the Peace Judge Rogelio Lopez on Tuesday divested Andy Schwartz of ownership of the animals, ruling that they had been “cruelly treated.” In an order signed Friday, Lopez said Schwartz must pay $44,137.39 for maintenance, medical exams and transportation caused as a result of the animals’ seizure from his farm near Converse.

It was unclear Friday whether Schwartz intends to appeal the ruling; his attorney did not return phone calls.

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When the animals were seized July 7 by Bexar County sheriff’s deputies, they were taken to Meadow Haven Horse Rescue in Smiley.

“I’m happy for the horses, that’s who wins,” said Darla Cherry, owner of Meadow Haven. “I thank everyone for their support to get the horses to this day right here. Without the people doing what they did, this would never have happened.”

The costs Schwartz must repay include $1,460 for medications and treatments; $14,400 for 25 days of boarding at Meadow Haven; and $28,277.39 in court costs. Lopez awarded ownership of the animals to the horse rescue located about 65 miles east of San Antonio.

At Tuesday’s hearing, more than 40 people came to the Precinct 4 justice of the peace court to back Cherry. Throughout several hours of testimony, Cherry sat outside the courtroom on a bench in the hallway, fearing that the judge might return the horses to Schwartz Farms. When Lopez announced his decision, Cherry’s supporters swarmed her.

Schwartz’s lawyers have 10 days from the date the order was signed to appeal the decision. The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office said there’s still an ongoing investigation into the case. No charges have been filed; the proceedings in Lopez’s court were civil.

Lead investigator Steve Sanchez said in testimony Tuesday that he visited the farm in January and didn’t find signs of animal cruelty at the time. However, a veterinarian who was sent to the farm to conduct exams found several problems that prompted a seizure order. And, on the day of the seizure, Sanchez said two draft horses he had seen months earlier had lost weight and one had open sores that hadn’t been treated.

Cherry and her backers said they’re concerned about the fate of the other animals at the farm. According to former employees, more than 150 animals, including chickens, dogs, ducks, goats, sheep, pigs and rabbits, are still at the property.

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Patti Witten-Jennings, an animal advocate with the Texas Great Pyrenees Rescue, said she’s concerned about 11 Great Pyrenees dogs at the farm. She said she received an anonymous phone call and visited Schwartz Farms on July 18 to check on three adult dogs and eight puppies and found a lack of fresh water and food and unsanitary living conditions. As temperatures continue to rise above the century mark, her fears have increased.

Jennings said the group is willing to take the dogs and provide veterinary care and foster homes.

“We don’t know if they’re being fed and that’s a huge concern,” she said. “They deserve to not be on a farm where abuse and neglect has taken place.”

vtdavis@express-news.net