Three additional horses were found malnourished and have been transported for care at Horse Haven of Tennessee in Knoxville.
According to Phil Lane, animal control officer with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, Tommy Ray Lester Jr. and his wife, Lisa Lester, of 401 Stevenwood Drive, have each been charged with five counts of cruelty to animals. Each count is punishable by up to one year in jail.
The investigation was sparked by a call last month reporting a dead horse on the Lesters’ property. While animal control officers were unsuccessful in contacting the Lesters, they did observe a horse in their field, partially covered by a tarp.
Animal control then launched a full investigation, confirming additional horses were on the property. On March 3 a search warrant was obtained, and officers found two horses dead.
“One of them, according to the owner, had only been dead a couple of days,” Lane said. “The other one we know had been laying in the field since February.”
Three additional horses were found malnourished and in need of care. Lane said he is awaiting reports on the recovering animals’ condition from Horse Haven of Tennessee. As of Thursday it seemed they were battling anemia, which is related to malnutrition.
“Unfortunately we see cases like these all too often,” Lane said.
“If an animal dies of starvation it is a very slow, painful, agonizing death. It’s not something you ever want to happen.”