State, Federal Agencies Blame Each Other for Abandonment of Horses
PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) _ State and federal officials blamed each other Wednesday for the abandonment of more than 30 horses found starving at the home of a Kingman-area man serving a prison sentence for income-tax fraud.
A spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service said its agents notified state and county officials of the animals’ plight promptly after raiding the home of Carl J. Jatho on Jan. 8.
But the director of the State Livestock Board said his agency did not act immediately because the IRS still had jurisdiction over the animals.
Four of the animals died before the Livestock Board obtained a court order Tuesday allowing it to feed and care for the horses temporarily.
Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., and the Arizona Humane Society both called for investigations to determine who was responsible for the abandonment of the horses.
Oliver Robinson, a spokesman for the IRS in Phoenix, said the agents had gone to the home and seized property in an attempt to collect money allegedly owed the government by Jatho, who was sentenced in September to three years in prison for a tax fraud scheme.
The agents, noting the poor condition of the horses, contacted local officials. A Kingman police officer and a Mohave County animal control officer came to the property, Robinson said.
″They told our agents that the horses appeared to be sick and said the state Livestock Board should be notified,″ Robinson said. ″Within two hours after our agents arrived, a livestock inspector was on the property.″
Robinson identified the inspector as Paul Hurley. He said the agents took no further action because they believed state officials had taken charge of the animals.
The IRS did not seize the horses because they were in such poor condition that they could not be sold, Robinson said.
But the state Livestock Board had no authority to take charge of the animals because the IRS still had jurisdiction, board Director Earl Kelly said Wednesday.
″Until we had clearance either by the court or by the IRS, we had no authority to just go in there and start feeding those horses,″ Kelly said.
Kelly said Hurley talked with IRS officials on Friday ″and was told that they didn’t give a blankety-blank what we did with the horses.″ Kelley added he was unaware the horses were starving until Monday night and then ″gave instructions right away to go to court.″
Kelly said his agency acted properly, but added, ″We should have moved in earlier. We were a day late and a dollar short in that regard.″
Don Hambrick, the Livestock Board inspector who took custody of the horses on Tuesday, said investigators found hay and other feed in a storage shed behind Jatho’s house.
″It’s been sitting here all the time,″ he said.
Officials were uncertain on Wednesday how long it had been since the horses had been fed.