Fresno Co lottery winner charged with animal abuse

FRESNO, Calif.

Becky Contreras said, "I was shocked when I seen 'em, how I could see their ribs and their bones."

Contreras was one of the neighbors who called the SPCA when she saw how sick the animals were. The animals were moved off the property and are now being cared for at the Central California SPCA in Fresno. Their owner Jose Francisco Romo was arrested and faces felony charges of animal cruelty. After his arrest he surrounded the animals to the SPCA. His story baffles the SPCA's Beth Caffrey. "It doesn't make sense that somebody would be able to afford to feed animals and just not do it."

/*Jose Francisco Romo*/ should be able to afford to care for the animals. Back in 2001 he and his wife Trudy won $40 million in the California lottery. He quit his job at a chicken processing plant, and bought a spacious home, lots of surrounding property, and horses.

Neighbor Becky Contreras said he didn't seem to know how to care for the animals. "It didn't seem to me he had a lot of experience with horses."

Contreras told Action News she and other neighbors often fed the animals they could see, and called the SPCA when they noticed horses that were sick or injured.

A lack of knowledge about horses is something Romo now admits. After posting $40 thousand bail he came back to his ranch. He was apologetic, said he was having problems, and even regretted having money.

When he arrived he told us: "I come to say sorry to my neighbors."

We asked him why the horses were neglected. In broken English he said: "I leave my horses for a long time. I got so much problems."

I told him people wondered why a guy who won millions of dollars in the lottery couldn't take care of his horses.

He responded: "Money has not changed me. The problems is more big."

He added: "I throw my money away, I can live the way I did before."

Romo seemed sorry and he did apologize to his neighbors. He wanted them to know there were no hard feelings and they did the right thing by turning him in.

Becky Contreras said he came to her house and said he was sorry. Her response: "Its pretty sad. Ignorance I guess. I don't know how to describe someone like that. He came and apologized but that doesn't do much for the horses does it?"

Romo's eleven horses are being nursed back to health by the SPCA. He surrendered custody to the agency. The goal is to get them healthy and then adopt them out. But Caffrey says it's not easy because there is no demand for horses. The SPCA now has a herd of 50 neglected horses from other cases and is in desperate need of money to care for them and hay to feed them.

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