Court accepts plea in animal neglect case
File // The Post and Courier
Elizabeth Steed, founder of the Livestock Equine Awareness and Rescue Network of Meggett, took in more than two dozen horses that were seized from a Colleton County camp in 2009.
A Bible camp owner is headed to jail for three months after pleading guilty Friday to charges related to 47 malnourished horses seized from his Colleton County property two years ago.
Edward Ackerman, owner of Gift Horse Bible Camp near Cottageville, pleaded guilty in court to 39 counts of ill treatment of animals. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Ackerman received 90 days behind bars. He also is required to pay $115,000 in restitution.
Ackerman also is banned from owning any more animals in Colleton County. If he is found with animals, authorities have the right to seize them immediately, and Ackerman is barred from contesting the seizures, according to court documents.
Charles Karesh, president of the Charleston Animal Society's board of directors, hailed the sentence, saying it puts people on notice that failing to care for animals comes with a cost.
"We are very pleased with the court system that this gentleman is serving time," he said. "Hopefully, this sends a strong message to others who don't take care of their animals."
Animal control officers took the horses -- along with a dozen dogs and some chickens -- on May 5, 2009, from Ackerman's camp after reports they were being neglected and abused. Ackerman argued that some of the horses weren't eating because they were sick but that none were abused or neglected. He described the case as "a David and Goliath issue."
"I'm being unjustly persecuted by animal control because somebody has it out for us," he said at the time.
The county filed the animal cruelty charges to try to recoup some of the money spent nursing the horses back to health and feeding them.
One horse had to be put down, but the rest eventually were adopted, said Tim Lynes, director of Colleton County animal control. All but two of the dogs were adopted as well, he said.