SILVERTON, Ore. (KMTR) - A Silverton couple was arrested on February 9 following an animal neglect investigation conducted by the Marion County Sheriff's Office.
The investigation began on December 29, 2012 when deputies were called to the couple's home in the 3300 block of Spring Villa Road SE, in a rural area south of Silverton. An anonymous caller reported two horses and two dogs that appeared to be in poor condition and malnourished.
Deputy Mark Ferron contacted the property owners. Carol Rae Epping, 43, told deputies that she had separated from her husband, Heath Christopher Epping, 40, in September. The animals in question belonged to both of them during their marriage, but Carol Epping felt they now belonged to her husband.
Deputy Ferron initially saw two dogs on the property that appeared to be in grave condition. They lacked shelter from the snow and freezing weather that existed at the time and there was no sign of food for the dogs. Both were extremely weak and exhibited muscular deterioration. The dogs, named Rudy and Sammy, were taken to the Marion County Dog Shelter where a veterinarian determined that they had obviously been neglected for a long period of time. It was necessary euthanize both dogs.
Deputy Ferron also saw a single chestnut-and-white horse in a field to the rear of the house. The horse was very thin and appeared in poor health. There was no food, water or shelter available. Carol Epping told Ferron that she didn't have money to buy food for the dogs or the horse, but that she also felt it was her husband's responsibility to care for them. Deputy Pete Marcellais assisted in this investigation due to his training and background.
Family members of the Epping's arrived at the house while Deputy Ferron was there and agreed to care for the horse. They agreed to leave it on the Epping property, but they would feed it until a more permanent home could be located. They did so until January 9 when the Eppings signed ownership of the horse over to the United SPCA in Yamhill.
It was learned that the second horse that had been reported as malnourished had died in late December, days before deputies arrived to investigate. It was buried on the property.
Dr. Barbara Kahl, United SPCA provided Deputy Ferron with a report on the chestnut horse's condition. She concluded that the horse had been malnourished for some time. It was undersized for its age (fourteen hands at four years) and showed a pattern of neglect for even the very basic maintenance and care. Dr. Kahl removed metal staples and glass shards form the horse's hooves and mane. The field the animal lived in was full of discarded garbage and he had apparently stepped on broken bottles and roofing staples. Dr. Kahl rated the horse at a 2 on the standard 1 to 10 scale.
After nearly a month of treatment, the 'Banjo' is doing much better. The horse is available for adoption on the United SPCA website: http://unitedspca.org/Contact_Us.html
Upon concluding his investigation on February 9, Deputy Ferron arrested both Carol and Heath Epping and booked both into the Marion County Jail. They were charged with four counts of Animal Neglect 1 (a misdemeanor).
Owners who find themselves unable to feed and care for their animals are encouraged to seek assistance before the condition of the animals deteriorates. There are numerous animal rescue sites on the Internet. If you need further assistance, call animal authorities in your area.