Snow Mountain Stables employees charged with animal cruelty
Two employees of Snow Mountain Stables are facing 91 counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals, as well as three felony charges of cruelty to animals, following an investigation by the Grand County Sheriff’s Office.
Arrest warrants have been issued for Derek M. Zurface, 35, and Theresa A. LaGrande, 23, the ranch manager and a ranch hand at Snow Mountain Stables, according to the Grand County Sheriff’s Office. Neither Zurface nor LaGrande have been arrested yet, GCSO Public Information Officer Erin Opsahl said.
After receiving allegations of animal abuse and dead horses on the Snow Mountain Stables property, the sheriff’s office and the Colorado Humane Society conducted an investigation on Jan. 11-12, which resulted in the seizure of 144 horse and one horse being euthanized.
According to the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, 38 horses were not seized during the investigation.
The horses were taken to the Harmony Equine Center in Franktown. Since then, 52 of the horses were released back to Snow Mountain Stables owner Jim Peterman.
According to veterinary professionals caring for the horses, as of Feb. 11, 18 horses had suffered documented permanent injuries, lameness or illness requiring them to be medically retired.
According to the sheriff’s office, the investigation didn’t reveal any evidence to support charging Peterman with any crimes. The 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office added that 91 horses remain in the care of the Harmony Equine Center but will be released back to Peterman soon.
According to Colorado law, a class 6 felony cruelty to animal is defined as having “unlawfully, feloniously, and knowingly tortured, needlessly mutilated, or needlessly killed an animal.”
The class 1 misdemeanor lists acts such as overworking, tormenting, depriving of sustenance, beating, housing an animal in a way that causes repeated harm or injury, confining in a reckless manner, or otherwise mistreating animals.
Snow Mountain Stables is a private vendor formerly under contract with the YMCA of the Rockies. The YMCA doesn’t own or operate the stables and has since terminated the contract.
Peterman had filed a civil suit against the Grand County Sheriff’s Office regarding the seizure of his horses, but the case was dismissed Monday.
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