Horse ranchers arrested in ‘severe’ animal abuse case

1085826-300x197

Pat Reavy  / Deseret News / Tuesday, Feb. 19 2013

Rory and Trudy Childs, who run Smoky Mountain Ranch in Spanish Fork, were arrested late last week for investigation of 101 counts each of animal cruelty and 31 counts each of having livestock at large. No criminal charges have been filed against them.

1085796

Photos released by the Utah County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, show the condition of horses involved in an animal cruelty investigation in Spanish Fork. (, Utah County Sheriff’s Office)

SPANISH FORK — A mother and son entangled in a lawsuit between ranchers over the care of their horses have been arrested in an animal cruelty investigation.

Utah County Sheriff James Tracy called it one of the largest and most severe cases of animal abuse he’s seen in his 35 years in law enforcement.

Rory and Trudy Childs, who run Smoky Mountain Ranch in Spanish Fork, were arrested late last week for investigation of 101 counts each of animal cruelty and 31 counts each of having livestock at large. No criminal charges have been filed against them.

Based on complaints from the public as well as Deseret News and KSL stories, police started watching horses belonging to the Childs at several locations in Spanish Fork, Mapleton and Spanish Fork Canyon, according to the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.

“The horses in these locations are in varying stages of neglect. There has been a lack of appropriate and essential food and water. The horse have also suffered with inadequate protection from extreme weather,” a police affidavit states.

None of the horses were in “good” condition, Tracy said. All of the animals were assessed on a 9-scale, with 9 being the healthiest and 1 being the horses in the worst conditions. Tracy said every animal his investigators saw were assessed as a 1, 2 or 3.

At one location, officers said they found a horse stuck in a fence. The horse was so malnourished that it was unable to stand after being freed from the fence and eventually died, according to the sheriff’s office. Investigators said they found three other dead horses in the same area.

Photos released by the Utah County Sheriff's Office Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, show the condition of horses involved in an animal cruelty investigation in Spanish Fork. (, Utah County Sheriff's Office)

Photos released by the Utah County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, show the condition of horses involved in an animal cruelty investigation in Spanish Fork. (, Utah County Sheriff’s Office)

A veterinarian concluded the horses had been neglected for a “significant period of time,” the affidavit states. The horses had also been allowed to roam on other people’s property.

“This condition did not occur overnight. It’s been a long-term neglect issue,” Tracy said.

Both Rory and Trudy Childs appeared in court Tuesday and were released on their own recognizance. Trudy later appeared in court on a separate probation violation.

Tracy said issues of animal abuse and animals running free have been a chronic issue with the duo. There have been instances of the Childs’ animals causing traffic accidents because they were running free, he said. A check of Utah state court records shows numerous cases of loose animals involving the Childs.

Trudy Childs was found to be in violation of her probation. But a judge delayed issuing sanctions, hoping a civil suit could be resolved first, which would provide an adequate resolution for most of the horses involved, according to officials.

Click to read more and to comment

AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
17 Comments
  • lacebra

    PROSECUTE these jerks….somebody…

    February 20, 2013
  • Kumadee

    Pro-slaughter proponents would tell you that this is why we NEED to open slaughter houses for horses but reality shows us that people like this want to CONTROL their animals.
    It’s a crazy perception of property & ownership that has nothing to do with a lack of options.
    They could have sold them for slaughter but didn’t because one has nothing to do with the other.
    Slaughter is about money and the influence of a criminal element to abuse and sell tainted meat.
    Neglect is about economics and/or control that will allow an owner to watch animals starve in front of them and chose not to act.

    February 20, 2013
    • Jackie

      Thank you for your comment. I totally agree.

      February 20, 2013
    • AnneMH

      “Because one has nothing to do with the other.”

      You could not be more right. Spot-on comment.

      February 20, 2013
    • Myra

      Absolutely agree with you!! Another slap on the wrist?? I sure hope not!!

      February 20, 2013
    • Jade

      Spot on comments, Kumadee!! I also question the fact that neighbors or people who “noticed” these animals didn’t seem to make any major efforts to report the abuse when it first started! Why not? Plus, the lady was already on “probation” for previous cruelty charges…no one checks back on a regular basis? This is just my opinion (and I could be wrong…), but there’s seems to be a lot more people than just the owners of the property to turned a blind eye to this situation for quite a long time! As the saying goes, “Somebody needs to DO something!” Keep in mind EACH OF US is SOMEBODY!

      February 20, 2013
      • Judy Lane

        This is why it is SO IMPORTANT to get involved!

        February 21, 2013
  • Karen

    Put them in jail in an outside pen with no food or water. Let them out to run around in the desert for exercise. Simple.

    February 20, 2013
  • Marcia

    These people need to be punished, severely, both for what they have done and to send a message that animal abuse will not be tolerated. So tired of this slap on the wrist sentencing or refusal to prosecute.

    February 20, 2013
  • Jane

    These people need to be prosecuted. This should not be a civil case, this should be a criminal neglect case and they should be held to the maximum penalty. Anything less is a waste of taxpayers time and money.

    February 20, 2013
  • Lorri

    Its good they were arrested but why did it take so long especially when their horses were roaming onto other properties and onto the streets? And, did they pay a large fine? If so, that fine could go to paying for feed for those horses. The authorities need to immediately take the horses from them. Why aren’t they still in jail?????

    February 20, 2013
  • Criminal and civil proceedings are separate legal issues. It is almost always easier to hold “property” owners accountable in civil court than criminal court. Unfortunately, horses are considered “property.” One legal action does not exclude the other and both should be pursued. I agree that these people need to be criminally prosecuted, but the legal remedy most likely to help these horses is a civil suit that bankrupts these people and takes their land and horses away forever. My guess is fines for cruelty are nothing compared to what could be assessed to these people in a civil suit. I’d like to see them lose both their freedom and their “property.”

    February 20, 2013
  • Kathy

    why do authorities have to wait until horses are dying to come in and confiscate and charge?

    February 20, 2013
  • Judy Lane

    So why doesn’t the BLM confiscate these horses and get them in better shape? Gee, I thought the whole idea was to ‘save’ horses?

    February 21, 2013
  • Tami Louk

    Nothing will be slap on hand pay alittle fine…………Yea, open up Slaughter houses to get rid of the animals these SOB Stave thats what these Horse Killers think and want! They just want make a buck…… BUT, WHO SUFFERS THESE DEFENDSLESS HORSES THEY ARE THE ONES WHO PAY THE PRICE FOR THIS…… What HORSE OWNER has this many horses and don’t know the care of 1 horse let alone 100 horses COME ON……….SOMETHING HAS GOT TO GIVE!!!!!!!!!!

    February 22, 2013
  • Michelle

    Unfortunately, 40 of these horses will go to auction on May 25th, I think it is. They’ve suffered so much already, I hate to see them sold to killer buyers. If anyone in Utah sees this comment, please consider rescuing some of these horses.

    May 16, 2013