SALINA — A truck driver has been charged with two misdemeanors after two horses he was hauling to Oklahoma had to be euthanized when he stopped at a truck stop near Salina.
John Caldwell, 23, of Wetumka, Okla., was charged in Salina Municipal Court with animal cruelty and failing to provide care. City prosecutor Jennifer Wyatt said that no court date had been assigned yet for Caldwell.
Caldwell and his girlfriend, Chelsea Proctor, 18, of Wetumka, Okla., picked up 15 horses Oct. 31 in the Denver area. Three, possibly four, of the horses fell down in the trailer as Caldwell hauled them west on I-70.
Caldwell said that he was unaware that the horses were down until other motorists began flashing their lights and honking at him.
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When he stopped at a truck stop near Salina, three horses in the trailer were down. Other horses in the trailer were led out. A fourth horse may have fallen in the trailer while it was parked.
The truck stop manager called police.
One of the horses had a number of scars and fresh wounds, apparently from being stepped on in the trailer. The horse was bleeding from the mouth, and there was an area on his back where the hide had been rubbed clean.
Stan O'Neil, a retired Salina veterinarian who was called to examine the horses, euthanized that horse and another one.
"I did see the third horse down, and it got up as soon as some of the other horses were moved," O'Neil said.
Caldwell said the horses weren't in great condition when they were loaded onto the trailer. He speculated the horses were used in guided hunting expeditions.
The remaining horses were picked up later in Salina on Nov. 1 and hauled to Oklahoma. The horses are owned by someone from Arkansas but police have not released that person's name.
"I feel like the horses were not in the best shape when (Caldwell) picked them up, and for his protection, it would have been prudent for him not to have loaded some of those weaker horses," O'Neil said.
The charges "are probably very legitimate," said Yvonne Gibbons, director of the Salina-Saline County Health Department, which operates the Salina Animal Shelter for the city of Salina.
"Not knowing what condition the animals were in when they were picked up in Colorado, it's hard to say who had responsibility," she said. "But certainly, some charges had to be filed."
The potential sentence for the two misdemeanors is a maximum of a year in jail and/or $2,500 in fines for each charge.