Kiowa couple get probation for animal cruelty; numerous malnourished, dead animals found at property

KIOWA, Colo. - Prosecutors say two Elbert County residents who pleaded guilty to animal cruelty, were sentenced to five years of probation.

The Elbert County Sheriff's Office was called to home of Christie Ann O'Rourke, 56, and David E. St. Antoine, 60, on Feb. 13, 2013, for a report of a dead llama, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Upon the initial inspection, deputies saw a dead brown-and-white colored llama on the property. The defendants claimed that they did not know how the llama died.

Soon after seeing the llama, one of the deputies saw a dog running with the lower half of a horse's leg in its mouth. The defendants told law enforcement that the horse's name was Roy and that he had died and been fed to the dogs.

Both defendants were already on probation for a 2012 animal cruelty case, involving a search and seizure warrant executed by the ECSO, State of Colorado Department of Agriculture, and representatives from the Colorado Humane Society and Dumb Friends League. 

At that time, O'Rourke and St. Antoine were ordered not to commit any new criminal offenses and that neither could acquire any additional animals beyond those they already owned.

According to deputies, the defendants had the following animals on their property in February 2013: 8 horses; 2 miniature horses; 2 donkeys; 15 full-grown dogs; 7 puppies; 4 cats; 1 potbellied pig; 2 birds (African Grey Parrot and a Cockatoo); numerous goats; and numerous poultry.

The February 2013 inspection also found the following:

  • Most of the horses were underweight and no food or water could be found for any of the equine. 
  • Two goats had to be euthanized due to a broken leg and a large gaping wound on the shoulder or elbow.
  • Two dead kittens found in plastic bags in a freezer.

Authorities said seven new puppies were acquired since the defendants were on probation, violating one of the conditions of the probation. Inside the house were 15 full-grown dogs, six full-size cats, four kittens, five puppies. A puppy and a kitten had to be immediately removed for appearing sick and dehydrated.

"One measure of our humanity is our stewardship of domestic animals," said District Attorney George Brauchler. "Here, these animals -- dependent on the defendants for their well-being -- suffered horrendous, heart-breaking conditions. The defendants' indifference to their responsibility to these animals resulted in unnecessary suffering and death. Our office takes animal cruelty seriously and it will be prosecuted fully."

"In November 2012, the defendants pled guilty to animal cruelty as a Class 1 misdemeanor, pursuant to C.R.S 18-9-202. In exchange for a probationary sentence, they agreed to the following conditions: (1) they would commit no new crimes; and (2) they would not obtain any additional animals. They have admitted that they violated both of these conditions. As well as the animals, the community is the victim in cases like this. The sentence speaks to all of the victims in this case to say the 18th Judicial District will vigorously prosecute any mistreatment of animals," said Senior Deputy District Attorney Douglas Bechtel.

The defendants pleaded guilty to the charges on March 14, 2014 and were sentenced by Judge Jeffrey K. Holmes at the Elbert County Court House on Monday.

In addition to the probation, O'Rourke and St. Antoine were sentenced 90 days in-home detention, a $1,000 fine each, plus restitution totaling around $2,000.

Prosecutors said the couple must also complete all of probation's mental health evaluations successfully. They cannot have more than three dogs, three cats, six birds for 18 months up to the full five years, and must comply with that portion in 21 days. 

Additionally, they must spay and neuter all remaining animals.

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