ROGERS CITY - A Hawks woman who pleaded guilty to a two-year animal cruelty felony will serve 18 months probation and reimburse Presque Isle County for caring for her forfeited animals.
Christine Kay Thompson was sentenced Wednesday, a month after pleading guilty to abandonment or cruelty to four to 10 animals, according to a court document. She agreed to plead to the lesser charge after being arraigned on a more serious felony, stemming from a sheriff's department investigation of her farm in November 2012 where 33 horses, five dogs and three pigs were seized. All the animals were in various states of neglect, according to a press release the department issued at the time.
Thompson maintained her innocence during her preliminary and animal forfeiture hearing, and several witnesses said they believed she took good care of her animals. However, deputies said they found her animals in bad conditions, and a veterinarian testified some of the seized horses appeared to be chronically malnourished.
District Judge Maria Barton said she believed Thompson loved her animals, but wasn't caring for them as she should have been. She ordered Thompson's animals to be forfeited in December.
Now, Thompson will spend 18 months on probation, and cannot own animals beyond her family pets during that time; she's allowed two dogs, two cats and a hamster, according to a court document. She also was sentenced to one day in jail, with credit for one day served. To reimburse the county for the costs of caring for her forfeited animals, she must pay $25,960.83 in restitution, plus $1,088 in fines and costs.
Deputy Dave Tomas, county animal control officer, said the restitution represents what the county spent on transportation, food, grain and veterinary expenses from when deputies seized the animals in November. These expenses mounted until they were placed in new homes or taken in by other organizations in April. The department may get a donation in the future from the American Dream Draft Association, a group that took a few of Thompson's seized horses.
"That donation would be applied to her restitution," he said, adding he's not sure if or when the department will receive one.
While the county had seized Thompson's animals, and her bond stipulated she was unable to own any, Presque Isle County Prosecutor Rick Steiger said he agreed with allowing her to have family pets.
"She does have children, and it would harm the children to take away the family pets," he said. "However, I do not believe that she should be able to carry on a business and an operation where she's dealing to take care of horses."
Alpena County Circuit Court Judge Michael Mack handed Thompson her sentence. He filled in for Presque Isle County Circuit Judge Scott Pavlich, since Tomas is a witness in the case and serves as court officer for Pavlich, Steiger said in June.
Overall, Steiger said he believes justice was served. He also believes a message has been sent that animal owners need to take care of their animals.
Mike Vogler, Thompson's attorney, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.