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Police in Ephrata, Pa., have accused Marvin M. Sensenig of animal cruelty for striking a horse until it collapsed. The animal later died and Sensenig was arrested. (Tawn Crowther)

Police have charged a Pennsylvania man with animal cruelty after he allegedly beat a horse after the animal collapsed Tuesday while pulling a heavy load on a rural road in Lancaster County.

Marvin M. Sensenig, 20, of Ephrata, Pa., was arrested Friday and faces two counts of cruelty to animals, Ephrata police announced in a statement.

“It is alleged that the defendant unreasonably struck a horse that was overburdened with a heavy load,” the statement says. “The horse expired shortly thereafter.”

The incident began circulating on Facebook after photos of the dying horse were posted and shared more than 40,000 times.

Tawn Crowther, who posted the photos to her Facebook page, wrote that she witnessed the beating unfold after the “horse was unable to pull a wagon full of watermelon and 2 grown men.”

At that point, she wrote, she watched as “an Amish criminal” walked beside the horse and beat it until it collapsed:

“At that point he continued to kick, hit and pull on the poor seemingly dying animal. I pulled over and called the police. They came to evaluate the situation, only to tell me that they are unsure of the outcome. Because Amish are governed under a different law. Are you kidding? Isn’t abuse standard across the board? So if I decide to beat and kill animals I need to change my religion to be above the law?!? Are you telling me the police are powerless against the Amish?!? Just an update, the police officer has reached out to me and is trying to help!”

Commenters flooded Crowther’s page with outrage, many of them claiming to have witnessed similar instances of animal abuse on local farms.

“Absolutely deplorable,” Bonnie Stauffer wrote.

“Criminal and disgusting,” Lee Habbershon added. “Good for you at least calling the police. I would have also.”

Police were dispatched to the scene around noon Tuesday after receiving a report that a horse was blocking traffic, police said during a news conference that was posted the York Daily Record.

Ephrata Police Lt. Chris McKim told the reporters that police spent three hours on the scene and called a local fire company in an effort to save the animal, the Daily Record reported. In an attempt to cool the horse, the fire company used up to 1,000 gallons of water, McKim said.

“It was during this time on scene that a passer-by made a complaint to an on-scene officer regarding the treatment of the horse,” McKim told reporters. “The officer did not say that the Amish are not subject to the law. At the time, and under the circumstances, how the law applied to the immediate situation was not immediately clear.

“Not all the facts were in,” he added, before noting that “all Pennsylvanians are subject to the law.”

Susan Martin, director of the Lancaster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told PennLive that she assisted Ephrata police in their investigation by informing them “what they needed to look for and what evidence they needed to take” from the scene to meet various criminal codes.

This material was also reviewed the “by the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, and is the fullest extent available by Pennsylvania law,” police said.

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