A judge on Wednesday found Lucie Thompson guilty of cruelty to animals.
Trumbull County Central Court Judge Thomas Campbell said the Brookfield woman’s actions were neither egregious nor intentional, but her conduct “certainly falls within the statute.”
Campbell said he would sentence Thompson, 62, at a later date — he said he does plan to put her in jail — and decide restitution.
He also delayed a decision on a prosecution request that the animals be surrendered to Happy Trails Farm, Animal Sanctuary, Ravenna, where they have been housed since Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County removed them in November.
This highly watched case, which has led to a trial by social media in the court of public opinion, was brought to the attention of officials through public complaints and social media posts.
The initial complaints came in while Thompson lived on Collar Price Road in Hubbard Township.
Trumbull County Humane Agent Harold Firster said he saw chickens, a pot bellied pig and ducks upon his first visit on Nov. 10, and he issued a warning because of a lack of food and water, he testified.
When he went back, Thompson had moved to 7119 Warren Sharon Road in Brookfield, Firster said.
He visited the new location, was told by Thompson to stay off the property, and came back with a search warrant.
Thompson had two horses in a pen of 10- or 12-feet square, with the pig, ducks and flock of chickens in an adjacent pen of about the same size. He called the arrangement an “unsuitable environment.”
There was no food or water in the area, and the pens were “rather deep in mud and manure,” Firster said. The pens did not have a roof other than a thin plastic tarp that was drooping due to rain and snow, he said.
He returned on Nov. 17 and used an order from Campbell to remove the horses. On Nov. 20, he seized the pig, two ducks, a dog and 34 chickens.
Two employees of Happy Trails and two Brookfield policemen who stood by during the removals said they did not see food or water in the pens any time they were there.
Happy Trails Director of Operations Lori Jackson said the horses were thin and their legs were caked with mud and manure. Their hooves were long and needed trimmed, she said. One horse also had founder, a bone condition in a horse’s foot, said Dr. Thomas Shaw of Buckeye Veterinary Service, Burton. Ideally, two horses should not be kept in a roofless stall of the size they were in, he said.
The ducks have chronic sinus infections and some of the chickens had injuries due to mites and lice and twine wrapped around them, Jackson said.
No testimony was offered about the dog.
Thompson testified that she had just moved to Brookfield and put up the stalls for the chickens, ducks and pig. The horses had been boarded in Vienna for about 2.5 months, but the boarding stable owner and she argued, Thompson said, adding the stable owner dropped off the horses in the middle of the night without warning. Thompson said she had no alternative other than to put the horses in one side of the stall, and the rest of the animals in the other.
“Within two days” she said of the return of the horses, “was when all this stuff happened on Facebook.”
She said she fed the animals twice a day and the horses always had food and water in their stall. She also said she walked the horses once a day, although two prosecution witnesses said they saw no indication the horses had left the stall.
The horse with founder had broken a leg years ago, and the founder problem developed shortly after its return to her, she said. This horse was underweight, but, she said, “I was always afraid to push grain on her. She might founder.”
The soft floor of the stall was better for this horse, she said.
Thompson’s attorney, George Gessner, presented three witnesses, two former neighbors and a Hubbard Township policeman, who said they had seen the animals in Hubbard and they seemed to be healthy and taken care of.
Thompson’s son, Roger Galford, described her as “always out there, busting her butt,” for her animals.
“There’s been times I’ve said she treats animals better than she treats her own kids,” Galford said. “I think she takes better care of them than she cares for herself.”
Campbell said it appears the sudden change in circumstances caused the care needs of the animals to get beyond Thompson’s ability.
The housing arrangements were “clearly inadequate,” and photos of the horse’s coats showed they had not been cared for, he said.
He also said he was struck by the testimony about food and water.
“You can time feed, but you can’t time water,” he said.
Photo shows Lucie Thompson and George Gessner.