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.