State, Federal Agencies Blame Each Other for Abandonment of Horses
PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) _ More than 30 starving horses found on the property of a man imprisoned for income-tax fraud have been fed, but officials say the federal government may have shirked responsibility for the abandoned beasts.
Internal Revenue Service agents who raided the Kingman-area home of Carl J. Jatho on Jan. 8 notified local officials immediately after finding the horses, IRS spokesman Oliver Robinson said Wednesday.
But Earl Kelly, 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 state 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 have called for investigations to determine who was responsible for the horses’ plight.
Robinson said IRS agents went to the home and seized property in an effort 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 horses’ poor condition, contacted local officials. A Kingman police officer and a Mohave County animal control officer went to the property, Robinson said.
″They told our agent 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 said the agents took no further action because they believed state officials had taken charge of the animals. The IRS did not seize the animals because they were in such poor condition they could not be sold, he said.
But the IRS still had jurisdiction, preventing the Livestock Board from taking charge of the horses, Kelly said.
IRS officials on Friday told the inspector, Paul Hurley, ″they didn’t give a blankety-blank what we did with the horses,″ Kelly said. He said he decided to go to court when he learned Monday night the horses were starving.
Kelly said his agency acted properly, but ″should have moved earlier.″
Don Hambrick, a livestock inspector who took custody of the horses Tuesday, said investigators found hay and other feed in a storage shed behind Jatho’s house.
Officials were uncertain how long the horses had gone unfed.
John Bodie, assistant director of the Humane Society, called for an investigation ″to determine what happened and what can be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again.″
DeConcini called for an inquiry into IRS agents’ actions, aide Bob Manes said.