Oakland County Sheriff's deputies charged with animal abuse

(WXYZ) - Two Oakland County Sheriff's deputies have been charged with animal abuse for not caring properly for three horses they owned.

James Willyard and his wife, Georgia Willyard of Lapeer, were charged with two misdemeanor counts each after an investigation by animal control officials.

In addition, the couple's daughter, Molly Mekoski, has also been charged in the case.

Lapeer County Prosecutor Byron Konshuh tells 7 Action News the daughter is the owner of the three horses, but she does not live with her parents. The horses were kept on their property, therefore the couple shares responsibility for their well being.

The horses were deemed underweight by a vet and also allowed to run free, which initially raised concern of neighbors.

"We try to make sure we get compliance," Konshuh said. "Prosecution isn't the goal this case or any cases like this. We just want people to care for their animals."

The prosecutor's office also filed a civil lawsuit against the couple after the horses were removed from the property.  The county is now in possession of the animals and awaiting forfeiture.

Gail Hirt has years of experience with rescue horses.  Her agency, Beyond the Roses Equine , is taking charge of their care.

"They range anywhere from 100 pounds underweight to over 200 pounds underweight," Hirt said. "Their hoofs are long. They're not maintained. Their manes were full of burrs. They just look terrible."

The horses are being temporarily housed at  Whispering Point Farm in Imlay City.

Arraignment took place last week at Lapeer District Court.  A conviction on the animal cruelty misdemeanor carries a maximum one year sentence.

The Oakland County Sheriff's Office released the following statement:

"We obviously find these allegations very disturbing. We have no tolerance for any animal cruelty. The deputies in question have been relieved of their police powers pending the outcome of the case."

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