LOUDOUN COUNTY

Man Previously Accused of Neglecting Horses

Some of the thoroughbreds seized from a Middleburg farm last week after they were found to be in poor condition.
Some of the thoroughbreds seized from a Middleburg farm last week after they were found to be in poor condition. (By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)
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By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

One of three men identified in court records as the owners of 48 horses seized by animal control officials in Loudoun County last week faced animal cruelty charges last year in West Virginia, according to court records and interviews.

Dennis B. Danley, 55, a horse trainer from Charles Town, W.Va., was charged with 10 counts of animal cruelty in Jefferson County, W.Va., after authorities, according to news accounts, found 10 mares with exposed rib cages and spines among 60 horses at a farm south of Charles Town.

Danley pleaded no contest to one count of animal cruelty in August. He was fined, received a 90-day suspended jail sentence and a year of probation, and agreed to give up ownership of horses for five years, said his attorney in the case, Harley O. Wagner. Under the deal, Danley was allowed to continue training horses, Wagner said.

Tomorrow, a Loudoun General District Court judge will determine whether Danley and the two other men listed as owners of the seized horses, Donald Cutshaw and Pablo Cosme, are fit to provide for and own them, according to court documents. Many of the horses were found emaciated and diseased.

Laura Rizer, a spokeswoman for Loudoun County Animal Care and Control, declined to comment about the men or the ownership of the horses.

Reached by phone in Lafayette, La., Danley said that he owns no horses and that he worked as a trainer on the Middleburg property where the horses were found from July until about two months ago. He said he also was there about 2 1/2 weeks ago and fed the horses before leaving to look for work in Louisiana. He said he was told that another person would tend to the animals.

The horses were in good condition, with plenty of food, when he last saw them, he said.

"They want me up there Wednesday at 10 o'clock," Danley said, referring to county officials who contacted him about the hearing. "They told me they seized the horses. I said, 'How come?' They said, 'Well, they're in bad shape.' . . . I said, 'What do you mean? There's seed and there's hay there.' "

Cutshaw, 46, who also lives in West Virginia, said he leased the land and owned one horse. He said he will cooperate with officials investigating the case.

Cosme, who Danley and several horse breeders said worked on the farm, could not be reached for comment.

Last Tuesday, animal control officers seized the thoroughbreds after an anonymous tip in November alerted authorities to poor conditions at the farm. County officials said they made regular visits to the property after receiving the tip and decided to seize the animals after their condition seriously declined.

They were taken to the county's animal shelter and treated by a veterinarian.

The horses were infested with parasites, according to a veterinarian enlisted by the county, and several were pregnant and scored a 1 out of 5, the lowest rating, on an index used to measure body mass. Many were found standing in their own waste and lacking drinking water.

Horse breeders were outraged by the case.

"I am shocked and horrified, as would be any responsible animal owner," said Donna Rogers, a veteran horse breeder in Hamilton who is on the board of directors of the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "It's shameful, and there is no excuse for it. If somebody has run out of money or run out of feed, there are so many places they can go to for help. . . . Many, many people would have volunteered to help if they had asked."

Staff researchers Meg Smith, Robert Lyford and Magda-Jean Louis contributed to this report.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company