ELLSWORTH — Two Ellsworth horse breeders at the center of an Antrim County animal cruelty probe could regain some of the 18 horses that authorities seized during an animal neglect probe.
Antrim County Prosecutor Charles Koop said he dismissed criminal charges against Timothy Eugene Allen, 56, and Tracey Lee Buzzell, 50, after they signed a settlement agreement Tuesday to reduce the number of horses at their farm and meet certain health conditions for those that remain.
"It's a deferred prosecution for two years," Koop said. "They will eventually end up with five horses."
Allen and Buzzell breed Avalondale Egyptian Arabian horses at a small farm on Toad Lake Road. Antrim County authorities seized the horses May 7 following allegations the animals were severely malnourished.
The agreement states the horses' condition was based on a combination of factors, including a lack of money for sufficient care and feed.
Jill Fritz, president of Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition, said the group has a hay bank available for owners who are unable to pay or find feed.
"You have to take care of your animals," she said. "Claiming you're experiencing financial hardship is not an excuse, just as it's not an excuse for other crimes."
Allen and Buzzell agreed to reduce the number of horses in their care to five, and they agreed to provide proper feed, water, care and shelter at their own expense. Koop said Allen and Buzzell may face their original felony animal abandonment and cruelty charges if the horses return to their original condition.
"I doubt very seriously because of the overview of animal control that they would get in that condition again," he said.
Six of the horses being boarded at the farm will be returned to their original owners. Another five are to be transferred to different owners and two will be sold in five months.