By Charlotte Huffman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Following an I-Team investigation into alleged animal abuse, a New Jersey woman faces animal cruelty charges and humane officials have taken all of her horses.
NJSCPA officials filed the charges against Monica Thors in South Harrison Township court on Tuesday. The charges come one week after Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter Charlotte Huffman first exposed the horses’ conditions in a CBS3 exclusive report last month.
When the I-Team went to Thors’ barn in Swedesboro in November, Thors trotted and lunged the horses that she claimed were healthy.
She also showed the I-Team “According to Prince,” a horse that struggled to walk and required the support of a sling to stand up for long.
Several others told the I-Team they had seen horses in similar shape while under Thors’ care and had complained to humane officials.
“It’s devastating when you see it your heart just breaks,” one woman who asked to remain anonymous, told the I-Team.
Following such allegations of abuse, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture investigated and sent inspectors to the barn in June of 2013. A department spokesperson said inspectors found the conditions inside the barn met the department’s definition of a “severe violation” and the case was handed over to NJSPCA.
Since then, Thors says three horses have died, two from foot infections and one from a heart attack.
Meanwhile, critics blamed humane officials for dragging their feet.
“There’s no excuse why these horses continue to have to suffer,” Kathy McGuire told CBS3 in a November interview.
McGuire owns NJ Aid for Animals, Inc., a non-profit striving to end the suffering of animals.
One week after the I-Team’s November story aired, horse lovers gathered outside Thors’ barn to demand action.
They came from rescue groups to offer the help that humane officials had told them they needed in order to act.
“(NJSPCA) says they don’t have money, no trailers, if a horse needs to be removed what are we going to do? Well, now we are all here. We are showing you guys we really want to help,” said Anouk Busch from Horse Rescue United, a New Jersey based rescue group.
On Tuesday, with the help of a select group of volunteers from the local horse community, NJSPCA seized all seven of Thors’ horses and her goat, Billy.
Authorities took the animals as evidence and transported them to a rescue operation at an undisclosed location to be further evaluated.
“We are so happy the horses have been rescued and we want to thank the I-Team, animal advocates and legislators who all stepped in,” McGuire said.
NJSPCA is a volunteer organization and while it is responsible for enforcing the law it receives no state funding.
“These are highly complex cases you want to do correctly and sometimes that means they are not done quickly. People don’t want to hear that and it is frustrating for people and it is frustrating for us. But these cases are difficult, legally complex and they have to be done by the book,” Captain Rick Yocum, NJSPCA said.
NJSCPA filed two counts of animal cruelty against Thors; one count of unnecessary cruelty and one count of failure to provide necessary care.
Thors, who has been raising and training horses for decades, was visibly upset on Wednesday.
“I would never intentionally cause my animals harm,” she said through tears.
Officials say they deemed five of the horses overweight and lame.
As for the remaining two horses, including “According to Prince,” Thors said she was on her way to say “goodbye” on Wednesday before they were euthanized due to their foot infections.
She said she was nursing “According to Prince” back to health and did not believe he should’ve been euthanized by authorities.
Thors said she never hid the foot infections from anyone and said the glue that she was using to attach the horse’s shoes caused the foot infections. The same glue, Thors said, was responsible for the deaths of the other two horses that died from foot infections.
“Listen, I made a mistake. I used this glue a few years ago in 2011. It was my mistake. I didn’t know this was going to happen to my horse’s feet. That was something that I didn’t mean to – I didn’t mean to do this to my horses.”
Thors believes she will see the remaining five horses again.
“I have to find myself an attorney and I’m going to get my other five horses back and Billy. Because all those horses were training, they were lunging; I had them on the race track. I’m going to get my horses back,” she said.
That decision will be up to a South Harrison township judge.
An arraignment date has been set for late January. At that time, Thors will be able to plead guilty or not guilty.