Penny Gingerich's property where 63 horses were seized on January 19. (KOAA)
FREMONT COUNTY -
The woman charged with 64 counts of animal cruelty on her horses was back in court on Wednesday. 63 horses were seized from Penny Gingerich's property in Penrose three weeks ago, and Wednesday's motions hearing revealed what led up to that day.
Despite the recovery efforts by the Fremont County Sheriff's Office less than a week into their investigation, there is still one missing horse that was never recovered. News 5 also learned that of the 63 horses seized, animal control found that nearly a third of them were in poor condition.
"We're very concerned about those horses," said Anna Blake, a board member of the Colorado Horse Rescue Network. "It didn't happen fast, it's a consistent lack of care over a period of time."
In Wednesday's hearing, the judge heard testimony from Gingerich's personal vet, Colorado Animal Control, and law enforcement deputies that opened this investigation.
Animal control revealed that 22 of the 63 horses seized were considered emaciated, just skin and bones.
"One of the phrases that was used in the court was 'walking dead,' and this is not thin, this is near death," Blake said.
Initially, Sheriff's investigators noticed a lack of food and water. Four days later, Gingerich apparently brought 8 of the horses in the worst condition to an auction house in the Fort Collins area.
"I have to believe hauling them for four hours in a trailer in that condition of health -- it's incredibly draining on a horse and she could only have been taking them for slaughter," Blake said.
Colorado Animal Control quickly found out. That's when the Sheriff's office seized the initial eight horses and another on her property, but one horse is still missing.
"You know, I'm not real hopeful for that horse," Blake said. "They needed better care than she was giving them."
Investigators found evidence that these horses were only getting about half of the amount of food needed for proper nutrition, and in many cases, no water at all. Despite those concerns, more than two dozen of Gingerich's family friends and neighbors packed the courtroom to show their support.
"All of us that have been to her property know that she feeds her horses and takes care of them," said Jodie Johring, a family friend. Johring told News 5 she feels like this is actually a harassment case from the Fremont County Sheriff's Office.
"I think it's absolutely an abuse of power. It should have never happened. Those horses should have been under a vet's care to see what they were talking about, and that didn't happen," Johring said. She's concerned that authorities didn't get an expert recommendation from a vet before taking the horses.
The judge is still in the process of deciding if Gingerich will have to pay $23,000 a month in care costs for the horses, who are being cared for at a secure holding facility during the court process. The case is scheduled to go to trial in April.