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MAGNA — The owner of 10 horses that died from dehydration in July has been charged with multiple counts of cruelty to animals.
But Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill does not believe there was malicious intent on the owner's part.
Shamus Josef Haws, 29, was charged Thursday with 11 counts of cruelty to an animal, a class C misdemeanor, in Salt Lake County Justice Court. In addition to the 10 horses that died, an 11th was also found severely dehydrated but was nursed back to health.
Because the case happened in unincorporated Salt Lake County, the district attorney's office will handle the prosecution.
On July 18, police were called to the area near the Pleasant Green Cemetery, 9200 W. 3500 South, after a resident found the bodies of several horses. The Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory determined the cause of death of all the animals was dehydration.
Through his office's investigation, Gill said it was determined that there was no deliberate intention on the part of Haws to kill his horses.
"We found it was an unfortunate tragic event that led to this," he said. "It was a very unfortunate, tragic set of circumstances. Based on the evidence that we had, we felt this was an appropriate charge. Nobody is saying this was intentional conduct, nobody is saying (death) was the desired goal."
Gill said the horse deaths did not fall into the category of a felony offense.
After consulting with experts, Gill said it is believed the horses went between two to five days without water. Temperatures in July at the time the horses' carcasses were found were near 100 degrees.
Earlier this month, the Davis County Attorney's Office declined to file charges on a similar case involving four horses that were found dead in July, also of dehydration. The horses became locked in their corral, 4000 W. 3000 South in Syracuse, being cut off from their water source.
The Davis County Sheriff's Office said that because it could not be determined who was responsible for closing the gate, there was "insufficient evidence to support criminal charges against anyone."