Couple to face felony abuse charge

Conviction in the case of horse abuse could bring 4 years in prison
Friday, January 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:00 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Hallsville couple arrested nearly two weeks ago after a horse died on their farm will be charged today with felony animal abuse, said Boone County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Connie Sullivan

Brandi and Thomas Phillips were arrested Dec. 22 after the Central Missouri Humane Society received an anonymous tip that two horses owned by the couple were severely malnourished. One of the horses died shortly after the arrival of humane society workers and deputies from the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.

A second horse found on the farm was also severely malnourished and remains in the care of a foster family. Sullivan said she would charge the Phillipses with two counts each of felony animal abuse.

Missouri law classifies animal abuse as a Class A misdemeanor unless the animal was tortured or mutilated while still alive. In that case, it becomes a Class D felony punishable by up to four years in prison.

“A horse is 100 percent dependent on the humanity of its owner,” Sullivan said. “If an owner purposely withholds food until an animal dies, I believe this qualifies as torture under the statute.”

Nearly two weeks after the Phillipses were arrested, the stench of the dead horse still permeates the air of the couple’s farm at 9950 East Van Court Road. On Thursday, neighborhood children were gawking at the dead gelding’s gaunt remains, which lie in the exact location where he died of starvation and dehydration.

Brandi and Thomas Phillips, who are free on bond from the Boone County Jail, could not be reached for comment. A family member who lives next door to the Phillipses declined comment, but said the family supports the couple.

The Phillipses are scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. Monday in Boone County Circuit Court.

— Missourian reporter Lindsay Tempinson contributed to this report.

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