The stench emanating from 275 Lone Yew Road in Toledo quickly overwhelmed the three Lewis County Animal Control officers who toured the property alongside a veterinarian on March 31.
They had gone to observe the property from the roadway six days earlier in response to an anonymous animal abuse complaint. They immediately observed three horses who were “extremely thin,” with their hip bones, back bones and tailbones “clearly visible,” as well as a mare and a days-old foal that both appeared emaciated, according to court documents.
It took several days and multiple attempts to contact the property owner, Alice M. McKnight, and then a few more days to obtain a search warrant for the property.
The conditions they found on the property were what veterinarian Dr. Michael Clark described in his report as “horrific.”
Clark's report was cited in the affidavit of probable cause for an animal cruelty case against McKnight, 75, of Toledo.
“The number of horses on the property was also astounding and there are many animals that are malnourished. The amount of mud present appears to be a contributing factor in the death of several of the foals found on the property because they were forced to live and travel through it with their dams to reach the pasture on the back of the property,” he stated in his report.
Multiple foal carcasses were found in various stages of decomposition, according to court documents. Four were partially submerged in standing water and mud, one was covered by a tarp in a barn and another was attached to a crossbeam with a halter and rope. Clark described finding a young foal’s leg sticking out of deep mud, which released from the mud when he pulled it.
“There was still redness from blood and it did not appear to have been buried very long,” according to court documents.
One officer observed “a horse eating excrement because there was no food,” according to court documents.
In total, the animal control officers counted 42 living animals and 10 dead horses — including six foals — on the property, but Clark suspected there may be more bodies unaccounted for.
“It is my opinion there are many more carcasses that have been swallowed up by the inhumane conditions she (McKnight) allowed to persist on the property,” he stated in his report.
McKnight has since been charged with five counts of animal cruelty: four related to emaciated horses animal control officers seized from the property, and one related to a deceased horse McKnight is accused of fatally poisoning with Promazine.
“This was not a drug intended to cause a painless death and is not used as a standard method of humanely euthanizing horses,” according to Clark’s report, which added, “the horse underwent an unnecessary amount of suffering before it died.”
McKnight had told the health officers she had “overdosed the horse” to put it down, according to court documents.
During an interview with animal control officers on March 29, McKnight was reportedly asked how many horses were on her property and she reportedly “said she didn’t like to count them. McKnight said babies are born, some die, and the old die too, and she allows nature to take its course. McKnight said she does not believe in euthanizing horses. She said she wants them to die naturally,” according to court documents.
Lewis County Animal Control seized three horses from McKnight’s property on March 29 and an additional two mares on March 31. One of those five horses had a body condition score of one out of nine, which is considered extremely emaciated, while two others had body condition scores of two. One horse suffered a knee injury “that had gone so long without veterinary care that the knee was deformed,” according to court documents. One horse suffered possible pneumonia and had rain rot on its back, and another horse was suspected to be “experiencing pain due to an extreme limp and his low body score,” according to court documents.
Court documents did not include details on the conditions for the two mares seized on March 31, but Clark stated, “The condition of the two mares, given their very poor and emaciated body conditions, are a direct result of Ms. McKnight’s negligence in not providing proper care of these animals. The body condition of these animals is such that any reasonable person, regardless of their experience with horses, would identify an existing issue. Not acting to correct the state of starvation of these animals causes unnecessary suffering and pain,” according to court documents.
Charges against McKnight were filed in Lewis County Superior Court on April 26 and she was issued a summons notice for a May 17 preliminary hearing, which she was not present for.
Since McKnight did not appear for the hearing, Judge J. Andrew Toynbee issued a $100,000 warrant for her arrest.