Animal Legal Defense Fund Sues to Rescue Starving Horses in Horrific Wake County Neglect Case
Lawsuit Follows Emergency Rescue of 6 Emaciated Horses, Too Late for a 7th Who Died in Extreme Pain of Starvation
August 25, 2009: Because animal abusers so often go on to repeat their crimes, preventing them from having future contact with animals is critical. In our lawsuit against horse abuser Judy Keating, ALDF has finally secured just such a victory—in August, ALDF obtained a consent decree, enforceable by the court, in which Keating agreed not to own or work with any animals in any way for a period of ten years.
ALDF won a tremendous victory in securing permanent custody of all of the horses rescued from the Keatings, the abusive North Carolina owners who allowed them to starve nearly to death, in the case of ALDF v. Keating. Those horses (including Groucho, a stallion whom ALDF ultimately won custody of in a subsequent suit, ALDF v. Simpson), are all recovering from their trauma under the compassionate care of the United States Equine Rescue League, the co-plaintiff in ALDF’s lawsuits.
July 12, 2009: Rescued horse Diva recently gave birth to a healthy baby girl! Mimi is as beautiful and sweet as her mother. Both are doing well. See pictures of Diva and Mimi here.
May 22, 2009: At 9 p.m. on May 21st, Lacy, the pregnant mare who was close to death when she was rescued from a North Carolina field, gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl. Both mother and daughter are doing great! Watch a video of the new foal, who was named "Gracie" by ALDF supporters, take her first steps.
May 18, 2009: The Johnston County District Court has agreed with ALDF that Joel Simpson should bear the burden of paying for the veterinary care and upkeep of Groucho, the stallion he neglected. Groucho was originally part of ALDF’s lawsuit against Gayle, Michael, and Judy Keating, but shortly after ALDF filed the suit, the Keatings purportedly sold Groucho to Joel Simpson, a family friend, for $1. Simpson continued to neglect Groucho, and he was seized by a cruelty investigator and transported to a foster home by the United States Equine Rescue League, where he has been recovering safely. At a hearing on May 18, the court granted the Equine Rescue League’s petition and ordered Simpson to pay $1,831, which reflects the cost of nursing Groucho back to health. ALDF will continue to fight for permanent custody of Groucho.
February 13, 2009: Victory for neglected horses in ALDF v. Keating! On February 13, the court ruled in ALDF's favor, ordering the Keatings to pay $8,372.46 for the care of their neglected horses, who were rescued from starvation earlier this winter. Watch a video of Twister and River nearly two months after their rescue.
Raleigh, N.C.– The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the United States Equine Rescue League, and a county animal cruelty investigator are filing a complaint in Wake County District Court today against Michael, Judy, and Gayle Keating of Willow Springs, for severely neglecting eight horses whom they starved—in one case, literally to death—and deprived of all veterinary care. ALDF is seeking permanent custody of the abused animals as well as the costs of caring for the animals, including expenses for medical care of the gravely ill animals. The lawsuit is being filed under the state’s Civil Remedy for Protection of Animals statute (Chapter 19A), a law unique to North Carolina that allows a private citizen or organization to file suit to stop animal cruelty.
On December 17, 2008, acting on an equine veterinarian’s calls for help, Wake County’s animal cruelty investigator, along with the United States Equine Rescue League, seized six horses from a field where they had been left by Michael, Judy, and Gayle Keating. The horses, who had been deprived of even minimal food and care, were in severe distress and literally starving to death. Another horse, a mare named Rain, could barely stand when she was found, and, before she could be rescued, died of starvation in a state of extremely painful stomach and intestinal cramping; her corpse was also seized from the Willow Springs field. There were no signs of edible hay anywhere on the property, and no grain other than a portion Gayle Keating had brought out to Rain the night before the mare died of starvation; the grass in the horses’ enclosure had been eaten down to the ground. The horses, some of them nursing or pregnant, had been eating bark off of trees in a desperate attempt to get nourishment. The Keatings could provide no evidence of veterinary care for any of the horses at any time, and the condition of all of the seized horses indicated progressive states of malnutrition and starvation, making it clear that the Keatings had been neglecting them continuously for an extended period of time.
ALDF has used North Carolina’s Chapter 19A three times before to obtain permanent injunctions against North Carolina animal abusers, winning custody of hundreds of dogs from animal hoarders and breeders who were keeping their severely neglected animals in filthy conditions. Chapter 19A is a unique North Carolina statute that gives animal protection organizations the right to rescue animal victims in cases of extreme abuse—no other state in the union provides such a civil remedy to intervene to stop animal cruelty.
“Horses who have nothing to eat suffer severe psychological trauma in addition to the unimaginable physical pain of slowly starving to death,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “The Animal Legal Defense Fund is looking to the North Carolina judicial system to see that justice is served for these animals, and to ensure that they are never returned to the lives of desperate neglect they endured while in the Keatings’ possession.”
Skyrocketing feed prices have humane agents across the country predicting an increased rate of horse neglect and abandonment. ALDF urges everyone to be especially aware of horses and other farm animals this season, and to report cases where you suspect animals are not being properly cared for. Read ALDF’s Actionline alert for information about reporting a neglect case and ways you can help animals in need.
- Visit our photo gallery for pictures of the rescued horses and a description of each horse’s condition before the rescue.
- Watch a before and after video of Lacy, one of the rescued horses who was pregnant and so close to death she was rushed to the North Carolina State College School of Veterinary Medicine for critical care.
- NBC17 video news coverage of ALDF v. Keating: Lawsuit Claims Willow Spring Family Neglected Horses
- Watch a video of Twister and River after their rescue.
- Watch a video of Groucho's road to recovery.
- See photos of Lacy and Groucho's baby immediately after she was born.
- Watch a video of Lacy's new foal, who was named "Gracie" by ALDF supporters, take her first steps.
- See photos of rescued horse Diva and her foal, Mimi.