- Associated Press - Monday, August 4, 2014

MANY, La. (AP) - A judge has ordered a man who pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges after dozens of malnourished horses died at his farm to pay $162,741 in restitution.

District Judge Stephen Beasley held Charles Ray Ford, 65, responsible for the care and veterinary treatment expenses incurred by those who rescued the surviving thoroughbred horses. The horses were seized in January 2012 from his Hillcrest Farms near Many.

Beasley this past week ordered $12,902 be paid to Stacey Tournillon Walker; $47,855 to the Sabine Humane Society; $101,983 to Louisiana Horse Rescue.

Ford pleaded guilty in 2013 to 10 counts of felony animal cruelty. He was sentenced in November to five years in prison with all but a year suspended. He also was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

Sabine Humane Society officials say most of the horses were on loan to Ford by their owners for breeding and training. The society secured a court order to take about 60 horses from the property. The remains of at least 25 were discovered.

Louisiana Horse Rescue Association took 45 of the seized horses; the others went to a Sabine farm and other rescue groups. Several were in such poor health that they later died.

Ford argued the restitution should be limited to expenses incurred from the date of the horses’ seizure through the date they were transferred from the Sabine Humane Society. He argued Louisiana Horse Rescue was not entitled to restitution.

Beasley said the “breadth and scale of Mr. Ford’s crime dictated the immediate humanitarian assistance by Louisiana Horse Rescue. Emergency care and shelter for over 40 horses, without question, overwhelmed the limited facilities and resources” of Sabine’s rural animal shelter.

The judge said it was unreasonable to conclude there was a need to outsource custodial services, with Louisiana Horse Rescue acting in tandem with the Sabine Humane Society to handle the sick and dying horses, Beasley said.