UNION PARISH, La. – (2/19/19) Union Parish Sheriff’s investigators have taken into custody one of the parish’s best known horsemen on warrants charging him with cruelty to animals and the theft of a horse.
Sheriff Dusty Gates said a five-week investigation turned up evidence that Hal Parker, 60, of Marion, was involved in a scheme to rescue thoroughbred horses and then selling and shipping the animals nationwide to individuals trying to save the horses from slaughter.
The Sheriff, who said UPSO was aided in their investigation by the Louisiana Brand Commission, stated Parker was keeping the horses in two old chicken houses in the Marion area and other places throughout the parish.
Gates said Parker was taken into custody Tuesday morning on warrants charging him with two counts of cruelty to animals, two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals and one count of theft of a horse.
His total bond was set at $250,000.
Parker has obtained local attorney Shawn Alford to represent him.
Investigators said the rescued thoroughbreds in Parker’s possession during the investigation were malnourished and one to the extent that it had to be “put down.”
The Sheriff said the investigation was initiated after the department started receiving out-of-state complaints about the operation in which Parker was allegedly involved.
A search by investigators of properties where the horses were being kept revealed insufficient feed for the animals, Gates said. A number of the horses have been diagnosed with diseases including strangles. It is an infectious, contagious disease characterized by infection of the lymphoid tissue of the upper respiratory tract. It can be fatal if not treated.
According to investigators, the theft charge against Parker involved a buyer from Iowa who never received the horse for which she paid. Gates said the investigators learned the horse had been given to a person in Calhoun County, Arkansas. The thoroughbred has been recovered.
Gates said it has been determined that Parker has boarded some 181 horses rescued from kill pens and that some 55 of them can’t be accounted for.
Other parts of the investigation are taking place outside of Louisiana.
According to a story published at NTWO.org, Parker is involved with an organization known as ICareIHelp operated by Dina Alborano of Trenton, N.J. The National Thoroughbred Welfare Organization article, written by the group’s president, Victoria Keith, stated that many of the horses that ended up with Parker came from Thompson’s Horse Lot in Pitkin, Louisiana.
The article states that Alborano’s ICareIHelp was not a non-profit as stated on its website and that the organization had chosen Parker as its quarantine and care provider. It stated that Parker was a former employee of Stanley Brothers of Bastrop, which is “one of the largest and most notorious kill buyer organizations in the country.”
“This is an ongoing investigation and I’m sure there will be more charges for sure as we get deeper into this,” Gates said.
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