Close to 300 charges were filed against the owners of nearly 50 horses, donkeys and a pig that humane agents said were starving, had serious medical problems and were living in squalid conditions in a West Deer barn.

Authorities who visited the property to confiscate the neglected animals said they found three dead horses when they arrived and had to euthanize two horses and a donkey because they were in such poor condition, according to a criminal complaint.

Donald Podczerwinski, 64, of the 300 block of Bairdford Road; and Kelly Gebhardt, 52, of the 900 block of Deer Creek Road, each face 30 felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals along with multiple counts of neglect of animals for failing to provide them with food, water and veterinary care, according to court records .

Podczerwinski faces a May 18 preliminary hearing before District Judge Tom Swan. Gebhardt’s hearing before Swan is scheduled for June 15.

Investigators said the case against the pair began in mid-March 2021 when a man who said he frequently did work on Gebhardt’s property contacted a state humane officer to report that a number of horses she kept were thin, had overgrown hooves and were living in unsanitary conditions.

The man told the agent that Gebhardt asked him to come to the property to shoot one of the sick horses, but that when he arrived someone had already fired three rounds into the animal’s face and head, the complaint said.

The man said another horse on the property was so sick that it was unable to get up and was “left to die” instead of being treated by a vet. He said Gebhardt contacted him after the animal died to request that he move it outside the barn to where two other dead horses were waiting to be buried, according to the complaint.

A humane agent who went to the property on March 16, 2021, said a number of horses were in stalls without access to food and water. The agent wrote in the complaint that the animals were “thin with ribs, spine and hip bones visible” and were standing in about 2 feet of manure-saturated straw.

About 25 horses that also showed signs of severe malnutrition and neglect were found roaming in a large riding area with 3- to 4-foot piles of manure scattered around, the complaint said. Some food was found in the riding area but it was not enough for all the animals, investigators said.

A mare and her foal also were being kept in a penned-in area without food and water, the complaint said.

Five horses, two donkeys and a miniature horse were being kept in stalls in another part of the barn without food and water, investigators said. One of the donkey’s hooves was so overgrown and curling that the animal was unable to stand, according to the complaint.

Gebhardt told authorities that it had been “some time” since the animals were checked by a veterinarian, had their hooves trimmed or teeth “floated,” which is the process of removing sharp points from horses’ teeth to prevent them from irritating the inside of their mouths, according to the complaint.

Gebhardt was given 48 hours to have the animals examined by a doctor, get their hooves trimmed by a farrier and to clean the stalls.

Podczerwinski told authorities that he and Gebhardt co-own the animals. When he was informed about the violations and the orders to correct them, he told them “we will just shoot all the animals then,” according to the complaint.

Authorities said they returned several days later to check on the progress of the order but found that only one of the stalls had been cleaned.

The agent was ordered off the property when he informed Gebhardt that a search warrant would be obtained to inspect whether she had complied with the order to provide care for the animals, the complaint said.

Humane officers and West Deer police executed a search warrant on the property on March 25, 2021. The only change they observed, however, was that Podczerwinski was now giving the animals food and water, according to the complaint.

Authorities confiscated 47 animals from the property, including 43 horses, two donkeys, a miniature horse and a pig that was found in a stall without food and water and suffering from severally overgrown hooves, the complaint said.

The animals are being cared for by Humane Animal Rescue in Ohio Township.

A veterinarian who examined the horses said most were suffering from starvation and a number were infected with internal parasites.

The overgrown hooves caused infections in some of the animals and 44 had dental issues causing pain that prevented them from chewing properly, the complaint said.

Four of the horses that were confiscated had to be euthanized because of the severity of their medical conditions, authorities said.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368, tlarussa@triblive.com or via Twitter .

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.