Clovis man charged in horse case makes court appearance

FRESNO, Calif.

On Monday the man blamed for leaving those horses to starve made his first court appearance.

Dana Kahler's case is Fresno County's biggest incident of horses being abandoned, but it barely scratches the surface of the problem. Money trouble seems to be forcing a lot of people to set their horses free.

One SPCA employee called it "horse thievery in reverse."

Kahler didn't say a word in court as his attorney entered not guilty pleas to all 12 felony counts against him.

The 59-year-old was arrested eight months ago when animal control officers found 19 horses on his sub-leased Clovis property with ribs showing, teeth rotting, and running wild.

Two of the horses had such severe illnesses they had to be euthanized and two others had another issue that worried their rescuers at the SPCA.

"When they came in, they were severely depleted, starving. But they also were pregnant. So we were really worried about the babies because the mothers were so depleted," Beth Caffrey of the Central California SPCA said.

A few months later Rosie gave birth to Thorne, and Holly gave birth to Holly Berry. Holly Berry needed special vet care because of her mother's medical condition, but like all the other horses seized from Kahler's field she's much better now.

The grownups have each gained about 300 pounds. That's a far cry from their behavior in December, when animal control officers had a tough time rounding them up.

The case sparked new donations for the SPCA, allowing them to build several new horse corrals, but the sheer numbers of similar cases are getting overwhelming. The SPCA has had more than 450 abandoned horses already this year.

With an accused abuser like Kahler facing no more than three years in jail if he's convicted, they're hoping the warning to potential abusers is actually being heard.

"It was 12 counts when there were 19 horses, so it would be nicer if it was a little bit stiffer," Caffrey said.

All 19 horses are now available for adoption, although Holly Berry and Thorne are not yet weaned, so anyone wanting to adopt the young horses would also have to adopt their mothers.

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