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Riverside woman convicted of animal cruelty for starving 17 horses

Riverside woman convicted of animal cruelty for starving 17 horses

A Riverside County woman was convicted of animal cruelty Wednesday after her 17 horses were found emaciated, authorities said.

A Murrieta jury deliberated for 55 minutes before finding Janice Deutsch guilty of 17 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty, according to the county district attorney’s office.

A Riverside County Superior Court judge is scheduled to sentence Deutsch, 50, on Thursday to between one and 17 years in prison. She’s already serving a seven-year prison term for a felony elder abuse conviction.

"Obviously we're disappointed," Deutsch's attorney, Joshua Hanks, told The Times. "We'll be pursuing any legal remedy we can."

County animal control officers first received a complaint for neglected horses on Deutsch’s La Cresta property in October 2010, according to a trial brief filed by prosecutors.

When an animal control officer reported that 10 horses appeared thin, Deutsch explained that “the condition was due to a hot summer” and pledged to add more weight to the horses, according to court documents.

Over the next year, as animal control officers returned to her property, Deutsch claimed that one of her malnourished horses had pigeon fever, then later said that her horses' apparent thinness owed to their competitive racing.

After Deutsch failed to comply with a feeding program ordered by a county animal control officer, all 17 horses at her property were seized in September 2011.

During the trial, jurors saw photos of starved horses and heard from a sobbing neighbor who said that concerned residents took it upon themselves to throw hay over Deutsch's fence to give the animals some sustenance, according to the county’s department of animal services.

“She acted in a reckless way,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Rosie Semnar said in her closing arguments, according to officials. 

“She acted indifferently to the consequences of her actions. A reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would result in harm.”

County animal services is seeking about $200,000 in restitution to recoup the costs of caring for the seized horses. All 17 horses were put on a nutritional plan and have fully recovered, officials said.

After a yearlong recuperation, 16 of the horses were adopted into new homes and one was sent to a former business partner of Deutsch.

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