Cecil couple facing animal cruelty charges

June 13, 2013

A Cecil Township husband and wife are facing upward of 100 charges of animal cruelty after humane officers reported finding more than 40 horses and more than 60 cats living in deplorable conditions more than a year ago.

Elizabeth Jean Townsend, 52, and her husband, William Townsend, of 78 Lewicki Road, were charged on a complaint by Cathy T. Cunningham of Call and Report Inhumane Cruelty and Abuse of Animals Today after the animals allegedly were found on Townsend’s property June 9, 2012. Neither Townsend was on the property when humane officers arrived with Cecil police to serve the warrant.

Cunningham was contacted by the Cecil code enforcement officer, who was investigating an unrelated complaint about the property. A search and seizure warrant was obtained.

The couple is accused of neglecting the 43 horses and 63 cats by failing to provide necessary food, clean and sanitary living conditions, fresh and clean water, and veterinary care.

Court documents filed by Cunningham indicate the horses were not given adequate food and water. Horses reportedly were in pastures with no forage or grass. The animals’ hooves, described as cracked and painful, also had not been cared for by a farrier. The animals also were living in what was described as a dangerous habitat.

Some of the animals had obvious rump and rib bones sticking out, according to court documents. There also were wounds infected with maggots, according to the complaint.

Many of the 63 cats and kittens also had eye or ear infections. Some were blind. Others had upper respiratory infections.

The Townsends voluntarily relinquished ownership of 36 horses, claiming that seven of the equines did not belong to her. Those animals were handled separately. Cunningham said those owners were found guilty in a summary trial before District Judge Valarie Costanzo and have appealed the cases to Washington County common Pleas court.

“That has been a yearlong battle,” Cunningham said.

Several of the horses owned by the Townsends had to be euthanized. The others have been adopted by new owners, Cunningham said.

The couple also gave up ownership of the cats and kittens. Some of the felines also had to be put down, but the others have been adopted.

“I think they understood the animals needed care and to be relocated,” Cunningham said of the Townsends. “They were cooperative.”

Cunningham, who does this work as an unpaid volunteer, said the care of the animals has exceeded five figures.

More than three years ago, Costanzo found the Townsends guilty of one summary count of animal cruelty stemming from an Oct. 10, 2009, incident, involving cruelty to cats. Because the two were previously found guilty on a summary cruelty charge, subsequent charges are filed as misdemeanors.

The charges against the Townsend were filed Monday and will be sent by summons from Costanzo’s office.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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