Grand Lake man avoids jail after abusing horse on video
A Grand Lake man recorded dragging a horse tied to a truck hitch around 200 yards was sentenced to one year of supervised probation with no jail time.
John Saldate, 58, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty, and a Grand County judge sentenced him on Monday to one year of supervised probation. He must also pay a $400 donation, and attend anger management classes and animal cruelty treatment.
John and Amber Saldate were charged with animal cruelty in November 2019 after a video posted on Facebook showed a horse attached to a truck hitch being pulled by a pickup on an icy day.
Public outrage was swift and the Grand County Sheriff’s Office filed charges on Nov. 25, the day after the video was posted to Facebook.
Requirements of Saldate’s sentence will force him to have veterinary check-ins every six months for a horse he owns and any other animals he may own. Saldate also gave up any rights to the horse involved in the incident.
In court, Judge Nicholas Catanzarite hesitated accepting the plea deal because the sentence didn’t include any jail time. In August, Amber Saldate received five days in jail, two years supervised probation and 100 hours of community service. The discrepancy didn’t sit well with the judge.
“It’s really hard for me to see how it’s fair to sentence Amber Saldate to (five days jail) and then have John Saldate enter into an agreement that includes the stipulation that he won’t get any time at all,” Catanzarite said. “Part of my duty is to sentence people consistently.”
However, John Saldate’s attorney Jack DiCola argued that he had new evidence in the form of expert testimony from a local veterinarian who doesn’t believe animal cruelty charges are appropriate in this case. DiCola added that Amber Saldate could file a motion for reconsideration.
“We have a local veterinarian who would testify that this incident didn’t meet the statutory definition of cruelty to animals,” DiCola said. “I’ve got the best known vet in the county saying it isn’t cruelty to animals, and if he wouldn’t know, then who would?”
After deliberating, Catanzarite accepted the plea deal as presented.
John Saldate didn’t make any statements on his own behalf in court, but he did assure the judge he had learned from the incident and wouldn’t make the same mistake again.
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The Grand County Sheriff’s Office fielded 228 calls from June 6-12 while dispatchers answered 572 calls for all first-responder agencies in the county.