ASHE COUNTY-A pending court case centered on the death of a pot-belly pig has highlighted the complexities cruelty investigators face when it comes to charging alleged offenders due to how state laws protect different types of domesticated animals.
Brooke Michelle Severt, 26, was charged on Feb. 14, 2016 by Ashe County Animal Control for failing to provide food and water for a pot-belly pig. The charge reached felony status because the animal died as a result of neglect, said Animal Control Director Joe Testerman.
“We had several complaints on her throughout 2015 and ’16 that she was not penning the pig properly and it was running loose,” said Testerman. “On this specific incident, we received a call after hours when it was snowing and really cold. A neighbor had called and said that Ms. Severt was not at the property and had not been there for days. They said the pig was in a close-in with no food or shelter. She stated it was near death. We went and found the pig in a small homemade lot. It was freezing to death. There were no signs of food or water. It was covered in snow and was emaciated. It had gone without food or water for several days.”
Despite the efforts of animal control, Testerman said the pig died overnight.
Severt is due back in Ashe County Superior Court on March 6 to face charges related to the pig’s death.
Calls such as these are not unusual for animal control, especially during the colder winter months when food becomes scarcer for these animals.
“We picked up a stray horse yesterday (Tuesday) that had been on the loose for five months,” said Testerman. “We get a lot of horse calls every year. So far this winter, we’ve picked up six horses. That would include mules and horses.”
Typically, animal control does not accept surrendered livestock. In most cases, investigators come in possession of these animals because they are running loose or were neglected. Sometimes, these animals break loose from their enclosures because they are in search of food and their owners are unable to afford supplemental feed during the winter months.
“It does cost a lot of money to properly care for horses,” said Testerman. “We don’t have much trouble with cattle because that’s a money making crop. They (owners) normally take care of them pretty good. With horses, there isn’t a lot of monetary value there.”
Last year’s pot-belly pig death was not a first for animal control. Two years ago, they encountered a pig that had severe untended injuries. In that particular case, the pig was running loose and its back legs were rotting off due to a previous run-in with a dog or pack of coyotes.
“We couldn’t prove who it belonged to,” said Testerman. “We had our suspicions, but we couldn’t prove it.”
When it comes to prosecuting individuals for neglect, the law treats offenders based on the type of animal they allegedly abused.
“The category of farm animal that includes livestock, chickens, horses and cattle is not as closely protected as dogs and cats are,” said Testerman. “Dogs and cats have more protection under state law. We have the authority to require a certain standard of care for dogs and cats, but with livestock, we don’t have the authority to require of these people a certain level of care for those animals.”
Reach Jesse Campbell at (336) 846-7164