Judge Rejects Felony Animal Cruelty Charges against Owner of Abused Horse

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Last month we told you about Champ, the abused miniture horse that was nearly starved to death while in it's owners' care.

The Sheriff's Office brought the underweight and emaciated horse to the Alaqua Animal Refuge in Freeport, where his health has greatly improved.

The court has dropped felony animal cruelty charges against Champ's owner, but some are worried he may be heading back to his old home.

It didn't take long for word to spread, as evidenced by the 220+ Facebook messages that poured-in.

"The judge has denied or rejected the warrant for the owners' arrest. There are no charges at this time. The judge has rejected those. If things stay the way they are now, then yes, the horse could be returned to his owner" says Camile Cox with the Walton County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities brought Champ to the Alaqua Animal Refuge last month suffering from severe starvation.

They say he was the likely victim of animal cruelty by his owners, DeFuniak Springs residents Nicholas and Jessica Sconiers.

Jessica Sconiers also happens to work at the courthouse.

Using bloodwork results, a vet assessed Champ's health and determined his emaciated state was not due to a medical condition.

But in a court of law, the difference between animal cruelty felony charges and misdemeanor charges is based on intent.

Because the Sconiers' had three other rather healthy horses at their home at the time, the intentional infliction associated with a felony may be seen as a denial/neglect case, making it more suitable as a misdemeanor.

However, Greg Anchors with the State Attorney's Office believed they had enough evidence to prosecute the case as a felony.

"We felt like the appropriate charge had been sent, but also felt that the statutes were very close and overlapped and we could certainly understand why the court felt like we should re-submit it as a misdemeanor".

The Sheriff's Office is currently in the process of re-submitting the lesser charge.
Champ's supporters are hoping that will keep the Sconiers' from taking him back.

"We just hope the judge will re-evaulate the evidence and take a second look, because we do believe there was enough evidence to bring charges" says Laurie Hood, founder of the Alaqua Animal Refuge.

Hood says Champ is doing much better and is now able to eat, drink, and stand on his own.

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