Ranch Owners Will Go to Trial

By: Lori Dougovito Email
By: Lori Dougovito Email

A Judge ruled Friday, Matt Mercier and James Henderson Jr. will be tried on three felony charges of animal torture and one misdemeanor charge of animal neglect. Jackson County Animal Control was also awarded custody of the horses, even the ones born after they seized the ranch.

Mercier and Henderson own Grass Lake Township's "Turn Three Ranch." It was seized by Jackson County Animal Control in March. The county alleges the pair left the horses with little to no food, water and shelter and in unsanitary and unsafe conditions.

Ranch Manager Matt Mercier says that's not true. The horses were left outside for the winter, which isn't uncommon. "Sometimes winter is hard on horses, especially younger and older horses," he said after the ruling.

Both Mercier and Henderson say they are surprised by the ruling. "Animal Control's veterinarian and the state's vet testified to how many horses were in ideal or better body condition. How do you take away horses that are ideal or better? I don't understand that," says Mercier.

Both men say they will prepare for trial now, trying to do whatever they can to keep the animals. Henderson can essentially pay money to put a hold on the horses, that could cost up to tens of thousands of dollars. He says he can come up with the money and plans on doing that.

Henderson was also found in contempt of court Friday and was ordered to pay $250. The Prosecutor alleges he said something vulgar to a witness, a Jackson County Animal Control officer. He was previously ordered to have no contact with any witnesses.

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  • by John Location: Ohio on Jul 31, 2007 at 01:53 PM
    Animal Control completely went overboard on this and the judge obviously doesn't have a clue about horse care. The four horses in question were not doing well, but could be explained. This does not justify taking everything.
  • by Rick Location: Stockbridge on Jul 22, 2007 at 09:28 AM
    Persons with no background in livestock handling have no business judging such matters. The Judge in this trial has obviously chosen to ignore the veterinarian experts.....he must know more than they do. I just wish that Americans return to practical pragmatizm, and quit behaving strictly based on emotion. I make my living in the equine industry, and I see abuses, by well intensioned idiots, on a regular basis, that far exceeds that which has been presented in this case. Bureaucrats have no qualification to make decisions on agricultural issues, and should butt out!
  • by GP Location: Lansing on Jul 21, 2007 at 04:02 PM
    It's really too bad that Michigan doesn't have the death penalty. That's exactly what these two deserve.
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