Guilty plea in horse case

Dwight McCloud pleaded guilty Thursday to seven counts related to animal neglect. He was given the maximum fine of $5,462.50.

The owner of four horses found starving and living in urine-soaked muck in a Summerville pasture was slapped Thursday with the maximum fine in their mistreatment.

Dwight N. Benjamin McCloud, of Old Dairy Road in Summerville, pleaded guilty to five of seven charges in Berkeley County Magistrate’s Court and was fined a total of $5,462.50, the maximum allowable. He was given 30 days to pay or serve 30 days in jail for each charge.

McCloud was charged March 5 by Berkeley County Animal Control with three counts of failure to provide care or treatment for a diseased or injured animal, three counts of failure to provide humane treatment to animals and one count of failure to provide adequate food and water.

“Your lack of care (for the horses) is obvious to the court,” said Chief Magistrate Ava Bryant Ayers while sentencing McCloud.

Two other charges will be considered in two weeks to give McCloud a chance to comply. If he does, those charges will be reduced to court costs of $55 each, said Ayers.

McCloud, who did not have an attorney, first said Thursday that he was not guilty, but added, “I’m not here to fight anything. I’m here to get some consideration on the tickets.”

The first witness called was Shambley Equine Clinic veterinarian Howland Mansfield, who testified about the condition of the horses when she first visited them.

When she finished, McCloud said, “Instead of wasting the court’s time, I may as well just give up. I’ll just plead guilty and save your time and mine.”

Ayers told McCloud that she would accept a guilty plea only if he was guilty, and McCloud said he was guilty.

Assistant County Attorney Elizabeth Smith Cannon asked the judge to impose the maximum fine on the charges, and noted that McCloud agreed to provide better conditions for two horses still in his care.

“He has made progress on that plan but did not complete it,” Cannon said. The horses were scheduled to be seen by a farrier on Thursday. Cannon also requested that Animal Control be allowed to continue monitoring the horses, and McCloud agreed.

The other two horses were voluntarily handed over to LEARN horse rescue on March 2, and their health is improving.

After court, LEARN founder Elizabeth Steed she was disappointed that McCloud was not sentenced to perform community service so that he would learn more about horse care.

“The $5,000 he is going to pay in fines would have prevented this from happening in the first place,” she said. McCloud has said he could not afford feed or veterinary care for the horses. Steed said she would still take the two remaining horses if McCloud would give them up.

Mansfield said she also found McCloud’s penalty disappointing because the horses’ condition had not changed much.

“When I went back to visit, they were still in a muddy paddock,” Mansfield said. “The horses’ health was slightly improved but the facilities still looked the same. The water was dirty, the farm equipment was still there and the paddock had strings. He has had time to make improvements and hasn’t done it. Why should he get two more weeks?”

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.