Tuesday, May 30, 2023

After month-long investigation, Wilmington family charged with animal cruelty after horse rescue

Four of the rescued horses at Horton’s Rehab Ranch in Pender County. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Horton’s Rehab Ranch)

Update 3:30 p.m. – According to the New Hanover County District Attorney’s Office, Sarah and Judy Woody are facing 12 charges each, while Robert Woody is facing 8 charges. The investigation is still ongoing and additional charges may be added if warranted by the evidence.

WILMINGTON — After a month-long investigation, three members of the Woody family were charged with animal cruelty after horses were found severely malnourished on their farm off Greenville Loop Road. One of the animals died shortly thereafter.

On Friday, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lt. Jerry Brewery said 12 misdemeanors charges were filed against each of the three Woody family members, representing 11 horses and one mule found neglected on their property. It was initially reported that only seven horses were found in a state of malnourishment.

Court records show that Robert C. Woody, his wife Judy Woody, and their daughter Sarah L. Woody — an accomplished show-horse rider — are scheduled to appear in the New Hanover County District Court on August 28.

Brewer said no arrests were made as they were issued criminal summons to appear in court. No other charges are planned at this time, according to Brewer.

On July 14, one of the Woody’s horses was seen eating on side of Greenville Loop Road across Hewletts Creek, where their farm is located. An officer from the county’s animal control unit arrived and returned it to the Woody property, where a horse was discovered stuck in a mud-hole, starved. Although it was rescued by a fire crew, he died shortly after.

According to Brewer, 13 horses were found on the property, including the deceased. Seven horses were initially taken to Reagan Equine animal hospital in Wilmington; two were adopted and five were transported to Horton’s Rehab Ranch in Pender County, where they are currently recovering.

New Hanover Sheriff’s Office: No charges against Greenville Loop farm after one horse dies, five sent to hospital

At the time, Brewer said no charges were yet being pressed against the Woody family because of financial difficulties related to certain health problems and because a truck used to transport hay feed had broken down.

He also said Sarah Woody had been coming over to help feed the horses, but the task had proven to be difficult due to her status as a student and full-time employee. It appears she was a veterinary assistant at Reagan Equine, the same hospital where the horses were initially taken after the rescue (a Linkedin account showing her employment there was recently deleted or made private).

In response to questions of Ms. Woody’s employment at the hospital, Reagan Equine issued a statement saying, “We are personally shocked and outraged at the situation regarding the starved horses from New Hanover County. Due to client/patient confidentiality, we are unable to further comment on this situation.” 

Last week, horse experts weighed in on the severely malnourished condition of the horses, with some saying it was the result of selective neglect. Read more below:

Horse neglect likely took time, some allege it was intentional; New Hanover Sheriff still investigating

Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com or (970) 413-3815


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