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OJAI : 5 Abused Horses Returned to Owner

Five abused horses, including two pregnant mares, were returned by court order to their owner, Dennis Alamillo of Fillmore, over a protest by the Humane Society of Ventura County, which spent five months rehabilitating the animals.

Society Director Joleen Hoffman said that both the Humane Society and county animal regulation had documented a lack of food and water for the horses on numerous occasions since June, 1989. The horses were impounded March 29, 1990, after an examination by veterinarian Dr. A.E. Sloan determined that “the horses were not being taken care of in even a minimal capacity,” according to a report filed with the district attorney’s office.

During a hearing Wednesday morning, Alamillo, 28, pleaded no contest to two of six counts of animal abuse. Municipal Judge Charles W. Campbell Jr. fined Alamillo $530 and sentenced him to three years probation.

“I was amazed the courts could make such a horrid mistake,” Hoffman said of the decision to return the horses to their owner. When Alamillo arrived at the society’s Ojai shelter about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Hoffman found it difficult to believe his court order was genuine.

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Deputy sheriffs were called after Alamillo reportedly threatened to walk his animals out through the society’s office. Finally, the horses were taken by their owner to the corral at the west end of Fillmore’s 4th Street from which they were impounded.

Alamillo’s lawyer, Jan L. Helfrich of Ventura, said the reports of abuse were exaggerated and described the horses as thin but not starved. Although the paddocks where her client kept the animals have no on-site water, Helfrich said that Alamillo brought water in daily and that the Humane Society must have impounded the animals on the only day they were without water. Alamillo could not be reached for comment.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Randall Thomas said the veterinary report on the date the horses were taken from Alamillo described the water buckets as dry for at least 24 hours and containing dried fecal matter. Pictures taken by the Humane Society after the horses arrived in Ojai were “compelling,” Thomas said. “Two of the horses were walking skeletons.”

Judge Campbell said the threat of jail on two counts of abuse and the terms of probation, which give the Humane Society the right to monitor Alamillo’s care of the horses, convinced him that “the animals’ safety could be ensured.”

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Hoffman said her staff remained shaken after the court decision. “We’re all shocked and depressed about this.” She would not comment on the findings of the society’s first inspection Thursday but said there are plans to file for restitution of expenses for the care of Alamillo’s animals, which she estimated cost the society more than $3,000.


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