Horse owners arraigned on felony animal abuse charges

Tuesday, January 6, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:33 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Hallsville couple charged last week with felony animal abuse in connection with the death of a horse appeared in Boone County Circuit Court for the first time Monday.

Brandi and Thomas Phillips said nothing as Associate Circuit Judge Jodie Asel informed the couple, who are free on bond from the Boone County Jail, that they face two counts each of felony animal abuse. Each count carries a maximum punishment of four years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The 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 horse died that day and a second remains in the care of a foster family.

Boone County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Connie Sullivan said that if it goes to trial, the case will be difficult to prosecute because the victims are unable to describe what happened to them.

“Under the law, animals are property,” Sullivan said. “But they’re still living and breathing creatures who have basic needs that must be met.”

Attorney Kay Evans, who represents the Phillips, declined to comment Monday.

Sullivan says a preliminary hearing date should be set within the next four weeks.

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