Thirteen neglected dogs and seven emaciated horses that were removed from a property in Bruceville-Eddy will remain in county custody after a judicial ruling Monday.

Appearing without an attorney, Rogelio Garcia, 47, sat in front of Justice of the Peace W.H. “Pete” Peterson during the removal order hearing after the animals were removed by authorities April 6. Although the name of Garcia’s wife, Norma Garcia-Rogelio, appeared on the court hearing order, Rogelio Garcia, who was arrested last week, appeared as the person responsible for the animal’s care.

“There is no excuse for the horses. I can’t find any excuse for not taking care of your horses whatsoever,” McLennan County Sheriff’s Office Detective Terry Fuller said in court. “The reason I didn’t arrest (Garcia-Rogelio) was because I believe she did have good intentions in her heart.”

Rogelio Garcia was arrested on a Class A misdemeanor charge of cruelty to livestock last week. Deputies removed seven horses that appeared emaciated or sick at his property in the 1100 block of South Agnes Willis Road and collected 13 dogs that were either confined on the property or were running loose.

“I took photos of the horses in the pen on the first day I went out there and in that pen, there was nothing but dirt,” Fuller said. “Some of these animals would not have lasted much longer.

Fuller presented evidence, photos, and reports from a veterinarian who evaluated the horses’ conditions. On an equestrian body scoring scale with 1 representing a horse in poor condition with extreme emaciation, 6 representing a saddle-ready horse and 9 representing an extremely fat horse, three of the confiscated horses scored 2 on the scale, which indicates emaciation; two horses scored 3; one horse scored 4, and one scored 5.

During his statements to the court, Rogelio Garcia said he fed the horses hay at least three times a day and his wife took responsibility for the animals while he was at work. Fuller disputed that claim, saying there were five bales of hay on his property, but they were not distributed to the horses and there was no evidence that the horses had been fed in a long time.

Many of the dogs at Rogelio Garcia’s property were dogs that had been dropped off by motorists, he said. He said he and his family began feeding them in an effort to save the dogs from starvation.

“I love my dogs and I love my horses. They eat before I do,” Rogelio Garcia said. “Sometimes hay is hard to find. My wife has to hunt for hay.”

Norma Garcia-Rogelio told the court that she housed and cared for the dogs, because it would have costs about $75 to turn them into the animal shelter. Peterson said as soon as the family began to feed and house the dog on their property, the dogs became their responsibility.

“We did try our best and we shouldn’t have taken the responsibility for them,” she said. “I just couldn’t leave them out there.”

Although the family asked to keep one dog as a pet, the judge upheld the removal order for the horses and dogs. He said the healthy horses will be sold at a public auction and the dogs will receive medical treatment by the humane society before potential adoption.

Peterson ordered Rogelio Garcia to pay $3,835 payable to the county for the removal of the dogs and fees associated with taking custody of the horses to date. Garcia can appeal the judge’s ruling within 10 business days.

Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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