(12/28/2002)
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Roane Co. horses that were seized will be sold Jan. 4

Saturday December 28, 2002

By Susan Williams

STAFF WRITER

Horses seized from a Roane County farm in 1999 will be sold Jan. 4 at the Spencer Livestock Market.

Since 1999, the 13 horses, one donkey, one dog and one cat have all been with foster families who took care of them, including one family in Elkview. During this time, two horses and one dog died.

Connie Lupardus said that at one time or another she and her husband took care of each of the horses. Right now, they have three of the stallions. Lupardus hopes the case will prompt changes in the laws that apply to animals.

Roane County had no facility to accommodate so many animals, particularly large animals, for such a long time. But Lupardus said all counties in the state would be hard pressed to care for animals in a similar situation.

Faced with the care of the animals, she helped to form the West Virginia Equine Rescue Fund, a charitable, nonprofit group, to be able to accept donations for the care of the animals. She is also president of the West Virginia Horse Council.

Lupardus and others are now working with legislators to try to improve laws for the care of animals.

"These are wonderful horses," she said. "They were never abused or beaten, but they were not fed properly. We hope they will get a good home.

"This has been a life-changing experience. My God, three years — I never imagined it could take this long. If it were not for people willing to foster these horses, I do not know what we would do."

After the animals were taken from the farm near Spencer, Lupardus said they were housed at 18 different farms over the course of their care. When they were taken, some of the horses were as young as 3 months old.

The horses will be at the Spencer Livestock Market on Friday night if anyone wants to look at the animals before the 10 a.m. Jan. 4 sale starts.

The Lupardus family does not plan to bid on the horses, but Carla Underwood does. Underwood, who lives in Elkview, has had Shamus, a 6-year-old stallion, for more than a year. Underwood said he is a good horse, and she has grown attached to him. Several of the horses descend from the family of Good Twist. Good Twist's son, Gem Twist, an American thoroughbred show jumper, was a medal winner in the 1987 Pan American Games and 1988 Olympics.

Damon Morgan, Mason County's prosecuting attorney, was appointed to the criminal case. He brought 16 counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals against Eric Arnold in Roane County Circuit Court. A jury convicted Arnold of 13 counts and acquitted him of three counts, Morgan said. Arnold is appealing the decision to the state Supreme Court.

His wife, Kathy Arnold, will be tried in magistrate court in the spring, Morgan said.

The Arnolds have law degrees, but Morgan said Eric Arnold said he had financial problems. Arnold also testified that he believed he was doing what was necessary to take care of the animals, Morgan said.

A veterinarian who testified, though, said the animals were in a "poor state of nutrition," Morgan said.

A telephone number for Eric Arnold in Roane County has been disconnected.

Becky Stafford, a Jackson County prosecutor, handled the civil side of the case, but she could not be reached for comment. To contact staff writer Susan Williams, use e-mail or call 348-5112


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