Share This Page

Charges filed in neglected horses case in Butler County

| Friday, June 28, 2013, 6:33 p.m.

A Clearfield Township, Butler County, woman faces 23 counts of animal cruelty stemming from the seizure of 10 malnourished horses from her property in May.

Citations for Helen Louise Welter-Lewis, 57, were filed Friday with Evans City District Judge Wayne Seibel. Charges were filed there because a district judge closer to Clearfield recused himself from the case.

New Castle-based state police Trooper Shawn King, an animal cruelty investigator who spearheaded the May investigation, reported the horses were “found to be emaciated and living in poor conditions” on the property near Route 422 in Clearfield.

Equine Angels Rescue in Jefferson Township took in the malnourished Missouri fox trotters after police seized the horses.

“They were in need of veterinary care and proper nutrition,” King said.

The horse rescue founder, Pam Vivirito, said the horses are expected to survive despite the poor condition in which they arrived.

Three of the horses are currently fighting infections in the lining of their abdominal cavities as a result of botched castrations. Vivirito believes Welter-Lewis hired members of the Amish community to perform the operations, something she said is not uncommon in the area.

“They basically were butchered,” Vivirito said.

The abdominal infections in three of the horses have affected their hind leg mobility and have slowed their recoveries. The remaining horses are rapidly returning to a healthy weight, she said.

Dr. Brian Burks of Fox Run Equine Center in Washington Township has been helping care for the animals. The veterinarian said several of the horses were as much as 300 pounds underweight when Equine Angels Rescue took them in. Most had lice and shaggy coats, which indicates malnutrition.

The horses are without prior veterinary records, so Burks can't know of any pre-existing conditions the animals may have.

Vivirito said the addition of the 10 horses, which range in age from about 1 year to teenagers, puts the total number of horses at the rescue around 50. She's had to set up temporary stalls and have some of her smaller horses share the 12-by-12 foot stalls to make room for everybody.

Equine Angels took in 18 other horses in the past few weeks, Vivirito said.

“There are no other rescues around here,” she said. “It never ends.”

Eventually, the horses likely will be put up for adoption, but Vivirito said they can't be released until they are healthier and until any legal procedures with the owner are completed.

“I can't believe someone would let this happen to these animals. I just hope they keep recovering well. We are doing our best.”

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com. Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or bashe@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.