After slightly more than an hour of deliberation, a Pennington County jury on Friday convicted Donald and Terri Harwood of abusing nine horses last winter for failing to give them food, shelter and medical attention.
“What happened was sad and tragic,” Pennington County Deputy State’s Attorney Patrick Grode said after the verdict. The verdict followed two days of testimony on Wednesday and Thursday.
Arrest warrants were issued for Donald Harwood, 51, and Terri Harwood, 43, 17 days after the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office seized 69 horses at a property along Radar Hill Road where the Harwoods lived.
The couple was initially charged with 10 counts of inhumane treatment of an animal, but prosecutors dismissed one count after learning that one horse identified in the indictment was euthanized at the recommendation of a state veterinarian.
Grode said testimony from Dr. Rory Fischer, a veterinarian with the South Dakota Animal Industry Board, was key to the convictions.
“He was able to explain exactly what happened,” Grode said.
The Harwoods had separate representation but were tried together. Both were convicted on nine counts. Each charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Terri Harwood’s attorney, Conor Duffy, tried on Friday to persuade the jury during closing arguments that the Harwoods were feeding the horses properly. Witnesses testified the Harwoods bought between 16 and 22 large bales every week.
“It’s not a crime not to have reserve hay during a drought,” Duffy told the jury.
Robbie Rohl, Donald Harwood’s attorney, challenged the jury to consider the Harwoods' devotion to their horses.
“Why would two people who spend every dollar they had, as little as they had, on hay and mistreat their animals?”Rohl asked.
Terri Harwood worked as a waitress. Her husband trained horses in exchange for hay when they were short of cash, Rohl said.
“They went out of their way to buy hay,” Rohl said.
Fischer started visiting with the Harwoods about their horses’ condition in early December. He testified that the horses did not have feed or water and that too many horses were grouped together. When they were fed, bigger healthier horses could shove the younger, weaker horses away from the feed.
Fischer also advised Terri Harwood to have a veterinarian examine the horses, but she refused.
Magistrate Judge Shawn Pahlke ordered presentence investigations for the Harwoods but did not set a sentencing date. The couple could face restitution charges for the county’s costs caring for the horses.