SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. -- A woman is charged with animal cruelty after SCRAPS officers said they found dozens of starving horses at her West Spokane County ranch in July.
A summons was issued charging the defendant, Janice L. Long, also known as Jan L. Hickerson, 48, with 21 counts of Animal Cruelty in the First Degree and five counts of Transporting or Confining Animals in Unsafe Manner.
Hickerson believes investigators are wrong.
Here is the conversation caught on camera between KREM 2’s Whitney Ward and Hickerson’s husband, Jeff, today:
Jeff Hickerson “You're a bunch of lying b***ards! F*** you!!”
KREM: “Sir, we want to know both sides.”
Jeff Hickerson: “You already did all the damage you could. You ruined our reputation by spreading a bunch of lies. You never would listen to our side of it before. You just ruined our f***ing life.”
KREM: “If there are inaccuracies, sir, we want to correct them.”
Jan Hickerson said she buys, rehabilitates and sells horses for a living. She said the animals seized were ones she rescued and was in the process of nursing back to health.
The 26 horses seized from Hickerson’s West Spokane property remain classified as “evidence.” They were removed from Hickerson’s care last month, when officials said it was clear the animals were starving to death.
Long's arraignment was scheduled for August 19 in Spokane County Superior Court.
Animal Control officers searched Long's ranch July 20, 2012, removing around 25 emaciated and malnourished horses.
The investigation began after a complaint about the horses was called in. The Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service said an animal protection officer had an opportunity to view the horses earlier that week and it caused some concern.
“When we came this morning no horses had any food,” said Nancy Hill, Director of SCRAPS.
“On a body condition scoring scale from one to nine - one being poor, nine being obese - the animals we are scoring are a one or a two.”
The horses’ owner, Long, said she runs a horse rescue and rehabilitates the animals.
“These horses that just came from the reservation, they were torn, beat up, had some issues, and here they are taking them, telling me 'you did it,'” Long said.
“Every single day these animals are fed and cared for.”
Long also said because of the size of her operation, it is not unusual to have many sick horses at the same time.
SCRAPS said when officers got to Long's ranch, there was no hay in front of the horses. The horses had also not eaten since Friday night, though Hickerson claimed she planned to feed them Saturday morning. Several horses were emaciated, according to investigators.
“These horses are at risk and need immediate medical attention and wholesome food. They need to be eating all the time to get weight back,” Hill said.
Animal protection officers took the horses to the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center to be cared for. A few horses deemed in good enough condition remained at Long's ranch.
The animals are now gaining weight fast with regular veterinary care and plenty of nutritious food.
Hickerson said she currently has nearly 350 horses, some within Spokane County. She insists she cares for each and every one of them, while SCRAPS wonders if more horses are being starved too. There are dozens of animals that were not seized from Hickerson’s property that are still in good condition.
KREM 2 is told Hickerson has already filed a lawsuit against SCRAPS employees and the county, demanding the return of her horses and damages.