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Posted on: December 13, 2012

Graham horse owner charged with animal cruelty

Today Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist charged John Diller, 69, with ten counts of Animal Cruelty in the Second Degree for failing to properly care for his horses.

“We are holding the owner accountable for cruelty to the animals,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, “and we are working with the Pierce County Auditor’s Office to find good homes for the horses.”

On Sept. 25, 2012, a DEA agent was executing a federal search warrant at the defendant’s 99-acre property when he saw more than three dozen horses living in deplorable conditions. The agent contacted Pierce County Animal Control. Officers responded and found 39 horses, including ten stallions, spread among three run down barns and outdoor paddocks.

The stalls had excessive accumulations of feces and urine and it appeared that the horses were not allowed outside. In one barn, an officer had to use a flashlight to see, even though the doors were open on both ends of the barn and it was a sunny day. The paddocks had shelters but they contained piles of manure one to two feet high. Most of the horses were underweight, had poor muscle tone and their hooves were overgrown and cracked.

The horses were taken to Frontier Park in Graham, where they have been given proper care and medical treatment. Several of the horses were determined to have severe and painful medical conditions due to neglect. Eight horses have been humanely euthanized, five due to medical conditions and three due to dangerous behavior.

The defendant petitioned for the return of his horses, pending trial. On Nov. 9, A District Court judge allowed the return of 11 horses, based on evidence that the defendant had sufficiently cleaned and repaired enough of the property to accommodate approximately 15 horses. A veterinarian determined that only 11 of the 39 horses were sufficiently healthy to remove from Pierce County Animal Control care.

Pierce County has paid more than $62,000 to date for the care of the horses. This has been supplemented with $12,000 in public donations and $5,000 worth of in kind donations of equine supplies. Donations continue to be needed, as Pierce County works to find "forever" homes for the remaining horses with special needs.

Nine horses are currently available for adoption. The remaining 11 horses have been adopted or may become available for adoption at a later date. All of the horses have special needs and require homes with experienced horse handlers. To make a tax deductible donation or find out more about horses available for adoption, visit the Pierce County Auditor’s website at www.piercecountywa.org/pets.

The defendant is scheduled to be arraigned at 8:45 a.m. on Dec. 27 in Courtroom 839 in the County-City Building in Tacoma. The investigation continues and additional charges may be filed. Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Representatives of the Pierce County Auditor's Office and the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney's Office will issue a statement and be available for questions today from 3 to 6 p.m. at Frontier Park, 21718 Meridian East, Graham, WA 98338. During that period only, media will have full access to the horse barn to view the horses that are being adopted.

MEDIA CONTACTS:Becky Stover, Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
253-798-4910rstover@co.pierce.wa.us

Kelly Kelstrup, Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
253-798-7792kkelstr@co.pierce.wa.us

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