The CW55 Investigates: Why Does Animal Abuse Prosecution Take So Long?

"That wasn't happening, six, seven, eight years ago. It's just different now, people are prosecuted, they go to jail."

In May 2015, three severely malnourished horses were taken from a property near Century.  It took until August of this year for two men to officially be charged with crimes, which concerned one of the people that helped rescue the horses.  Then, just

Then, just ten days ago on September 2nd, one man’s charges were changed from a misdemeanor to a felony.

With a crime so serious it’s a felony, why does the process take so long?  Why could they walk free for almost a year?  We took a closer look at the process and prevalence of prosecuting horse abuse in Escambia County.

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“See his ribs showing, and his backbone… And his hip bone?” said Diane Lowery, President of the Panhandle Equine Rescue.  “This is what you call a pressure wound.  It’s like a pressure sore where they’ve been laying down for long periods of time.”

Two horses, Bo and Trigger, were rescued recently.  Both were malnourished, but they’re not fed and loved by Panhandle Equine Rescue.

“They won’t go out hungry,” Lowery said.  “If they do go they’re gonna go out loved… And being fed. They’ll go out with dignity. Not dying alone, unloved and starting to death.”

Bo and Trigger are just the two latest victims of a much bigger problem.

“I think a lot of people, they see a horse that’s free to a good home or it’s relatively inexpensive and they say, ‘I’ve always wanted a horse, I’ll get one,” said John Robinson, Division Manager for Animal Services in Escambia County.  “But they haven’t done the homework and they really need to do the homework to understand what they’re getting into.”

Animal Control attempts to work with owners when they can to educate them on proper care, but Robinson says some people are just bad people.

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“The big difference now that we’re seeing is that people go to jail for these crimes,” Robinson said.  “That wasn’t happening, six, seven, eight years ago.  It’s just different now, people are prosecuted, they go to jail.”

Escambia County Sheriff’s Deputies recently re-arrested John Jackson Grimes, a man accused of abusing three horses in Century.  Originally a misdemeanor charge, now a felony charge of causing cruel death, pain, and suffering.

“The felony cruelty case is punishable by up to 5 years in the county jail and a 5,000 dollar fine,” said Adrienne Emerson, Misdemeanor Supervisor at the State Attorney’s office.

Emerson says she sees about 10 cases of horse cruelty a year, but she and Robinson explain, there’s a detailed process of reviewing, paperwork, and planning.

“Every case is unique and with horse cruelty cases especially, there are a lot of factors that play into that,” Emerson said.  “So, the review process and the monitoring process can take some time.”

“If you’re gonna put someone in jail, it’s gonna take a little while to do it right,” said Robinson.  “I think that’s the big challenge that you have. It’s not something that you can just move swiftly through.  There’s a process that has to happen and has to be done right.”

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Lowery wants quicker action, especially when it comes to warrants.

“Usually these warrants, they specify that the person can’t have any animals, but until that warrant is served, they’re getting animals,” Lowery said, concerned the alleged criminals could be getting more animals. “This system is just bogged down.  That’s costly for the taxpayers, you know, to have to pay to feed all these animals.”

John Jackson Grimes is scheduled for court on November 30th.  The three horses have been rehabilitated and placed with trainers.

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