Horse sale grinds to a halt
Animal Control Officer admits to submitting fabricated photos and seeking “dirt” on horse owner
By Paula L. Ratliff
BSC, MS Criminologist and Author
A story that began about ‘abandoned and sick horses that were left to die’ has evolved into something more sinister, as new evidence has been uncovered: Evidence involving multiple players and many mishaps on a twisted path.
Perhaps it would have faded into the sunset or on a happy trail ride except the request from County Judge Executive Michael Hale in March 2022, to purchase a new livestock trailer prompted the questions: “Horses? What horses? We still have horses?”
These simple questions have sent the county into a spiral as an examination of the actions that day has led to many questions. The answered questions are, to say the least disappointing, wavering our faith in government and equal protection under the law as we have discovered a deliberate attempt to sabotage the owner by an officer of the law.
We have discovered basic due process rights have been circumvented by government overreach and actions by those in authority.
Based on this discovery and other questions previously answered by the Barren County Progress, we are reporting that the opening of bids for the sale of the Turner’s horses has been postponed indefinitely.
Animal Control Officer Shelley Furlong, a 17 ½ year employee, was the one to receive a call from an unidentified individual stating that horses had been abandoned at the Barren River State Park Stables. She was the first to arrive and was responsible for securing the scene, investigating, and documenting the situation. It was her job to collect evidence of the crime and establish a chain of custody for the seized property.
Once information was collected and the animals seized, she was required to make weekly monitoring visits, documenting the improvements and health progress of each animal. Her notes, case file, photographs and body camera recordings should have provided documented evidence to “win” the case in court.
Furlong’s unsigned statement on Glasgow Police Department letterhead was accepted by County Attorney Kathryn Thomas. It was filled with inconsistencies and contradictions, mentioned unidentified witnesses, and included unsubstantiated claims and subjective statements. Additionally, Furlong and Thomas did not include any photos of the seized horses or body camera footage in the file.
Furlong states that she made the call to involve Hale.
From there, it is difficult to determine who made the decision to seize the horses. Hale has repeatedly stated that they were acting at the request of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDOA) to seize the horses right then, that day, immediately.
On May 16, 2022, The Progress (editor and writer) interviewed Officer Furlong who was represented with Major Terry Flatt of the Glasgow Police Department. During this recorded interview, Furlong stated that KDOA does not have the authority to seize animals and she recently advised Hale of this fact. Perhaps this is why on May 10, 2022, he changed his narrative, stating it was Animal Control who made the decision to seize the horses.
Officer Furlong agreed with him on more than one public occasion and remained silent as the inconsistencies were spun. She concurred with him that “we” had to put one down that morning. Yet, during the interview, she acknowledged that the horse was deceased when they arrived and was not associated with the nine horses that were seized. (It was being cared for by another veterinary that peacefully euthanized it earlier the same day of the seizure.)
Additionally, Furlong confirmed that she did not have a court order and that Animal Control has never charged boarding fees.
Furlong confirmed that she did not speak with nor did she make any attempts to contact the owners of the horses prior to seizing.
She was asked to review and verify the documents provided by County Attorney Thomas. She also verified photos which were taken that day of the seized horses.
Animal Control Officer admits to seeking “dirt” and fabricated photos
The case had been in the court system since the criminal complaint was signed on September 25, 2019, yet, Furlong felt compelled or was encouraged to seek more “dirt.”
She sent a text to KDOA stating, “…I’ve got to get more dirt on this nasty man…I’ve got to shut him down somehow.” Along with that text, she submitted a collage of nine pictures of horses in various stages of death and malnutrition. Furlong admitted sending the photos and admitted they were not Turner horses.
She also admitted to corresponding with individual(s) who is/are closely associated with this case, individual(s) who knew the deceptive photos would be used to inaccurately depict the seized horses. How she obtained the photos and the name(s) of the individual(s) whom she shared them with has been withheld to not obstruct any investigation.
Major Flatt informed Chief Jennifer Arbogast of the admissions obtained during the interview and they requested additional documents. They are aware of the violations and, by having knowledge of the admissions, are aware that the assets were seized inappropriately and to allow disposition to continue would be complicity to the facilitation of such actions.
Abandoned and sick and left to die has been a consistent theme Hale has promulgated through numerous Fiscal Court meetings, television interviews, and his social media platforms.
In reality, the photographs reveal nine robust horses that were secured in an enclosed pasture with a fence and lock. This was their home, not an arena, from March 15 through November 15, 2019 as specified in the contract between the owner and the state.
There was a barn that contained stalls and provided shelter. There was a water trough and 150-plus pounds of feed. The tack room contained saddles and horse supplies.
There was more than one pasture to allow for rotational grazing, the quality of the forage was the responsibility of the Park. There was no documentation on the amount of muck in the stalls and pasture.
The veterinary report by Dr. Steve Webb of the Animal Clinic stated the horses had some cockleburs in their tails and one loose shoe (out of 36 potential if all horses had 4 shoes). He stated some needed hoof trimming and shoeing and some looked “malnourished and under conditioned.” He further stated that “None of the horses were exhibiting any immediate life threatening symptoms.” He made no reference to sores on the horses or flies.
There was no immediate danger to the horses which precipitated an immediate seizure.
As stated in previous articles, the horses were never weighed, blood or fecal tested. Additionally, there are no receipts for current vaccinations in the most recent receipts provided via Open Records.
Who authorized the seizure?
As of this writing, we still do not know for certain who authorized the cutting of the locks to seize property that was leased by the state. We can say with certainty, it was not the Department of Agriculture.
We can say with certainty, that it was not the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet, through Angie McCorkle Buckler, Deputy General Counsel who confirmed that the state park rangers did not submit any documents and/or statements from the event and were not involved with this situation. According to Mr. Turner’s contract, the Park Rangers are in charge of any concerns with the stables.
Why the secrecy about the seizure and verbal contract?
Much has been said that should not have been said, as it is advisable not to discuss pending legal matters. The Turners deserved their day in court without being attacked from the executive branch of county government.
Yet, much was left unsaid. The magistrates were not informed of the non competitive contract/agreement given to Steve Bulle for an eight month period, costing $34,902. They learned about it when Judge Hale asked for magistrate approval to enter a contract with the state to return the horses to the Park.
Perhaps to off-set criticism for the expenditures, Hale stated the expenses were reimbursed by the CARES Act. As of this writing, this claim cannot be verified and the Progress will continue searching for the truth. The costs continue to increase, exceeding $41,000 as of the last documentation received from county government.
The contract with the state was signed in May 2020, and the horses were moved back to the Park and all return silent again until the request to purchase a new animal trailer surfaced in March 2022.
Many versions provided
It has taken substantial research to confirm the expenditures as Judge Hale has stated various amounts. He has offered various answers for how many horses were seized. He has offered various explanations on who made the decision to seize and who is responsible. He has offered various explanations as to the conditions of the horses, citing conditions as facts that were never documented. He has offered various explanations as to why he has one of the seized horses on his farm, facts unknown to the governing body of our county, and facts that are detrimental in maintaining a chain of custody.
NOTE: Additional Open Record requests are pending, and the story will be updated as new information is made available.
Clarification to previous article “Horses seized without warrant.” The article stated that Judge Hale had requested to meet with the author and the editor. He actually requested to speak with the author via phone. She extended an invitation to meet “on the record” and with the editor of the Progress. Judge Hale responded, “Ok. Fine” but has not provided any dates or times that he could meet. A second invitation was extended and we continue to be available. Text messages are available for verification.