Texas Ranch owner, wife taken into custody during investigation into horse neglect

Author: Syan Rhodes, Reporter, srhodes@click2houston.com
Phil Archer, Reporter, parcher@kprc.com  as published on Click2Houston.com

“Sadly, this is right in our own backyard…you just never know the depths of depravity that human beings have the ability and desire to sink to.” ~ R.T.


Investigation in alleged neglect of 200 horses widens

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CONROE, TexasA Montgomery County couple faces several counts of animal cruelty after local officials seized control over 200 horses from their property at the Premium Star Ranch near Conroe.

Herman Hoffman and Kathleen Hoffman were taken into custody just before 10 p.m. Wednesday at their ranch off League Line Road. They are each charged with three misdemeanor counts of cruelty to livestock. Bond has been set at $30,000 each.

County Attorney J.D. Lambright was among a small army of law officers who served a search warrant at the ranch around 2 p.m. Wednesday, including Montgomery County District Attorney Britt Ligon, deputy constables from Montgomery County Precinct 4 and 5, investigators from the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and two veterinarians.

“Some of the horses are thriving. There are obviously some that are not in good shape at all,” Ligon said.

Investigators seized the ranch business records and brought in a backhoe to dig for carcasses that may have been buried.

During a previous investigation in October, Precinct 5 deputy constables found malnourished horses on the ranch and ordered owner Herman Hoffman to comply with a reasonable standards of care.

The new investigation was sparked by the death of a 3-month-old colt over the weekend, as reported Tuesday by KPRC 2 News. The horse was rushed to a Navasota veterinarian clinic on Saturday by animal rescue volunteer Christal Griffiths but died a few hours later.

“He was extremely emaciated with rain rot, lice all over his body. He could barely walk, barely stand,” Griffith said. “He died within a few hours.”

Dr. Benjamin R. Buchanan said that the horse weighed 94 pounds at the time of death. A normal weight for a horse his age would have been between 150 to 175 pounds.

Buchanan stated in his report, “This colt appears to have been starved to the point of death.”

The district attorney also took statements from five former ranch employees, who told KPRC 2 News Tuesday more than 30 horses had died at the ranch since March due to neglect and malnutrition.

“Most of them are emaciated. Their tail bones are sticking out, their rib bones, their back bones, you name it. You can count every bone on their body,” former employee Kayla Kidd told KPRC 2 News Tuesday.

Ambulances were called for Herman Hoffman and Kathleen Hoffman, but only Herman was taken to the hospital to be checked out for chest pains.

Kidd and several other employees quit their jobs Saturday after they say Herman Hoffman fired two shots into the ground from a small caliber pistol after becoming angry. Hoffman said he fired the shots to demonstrate to his wife that the gun was loaded. Montgomery County Precinct 5 deputy constables responded to the disturbance but made no arrests.

Hoffman blames Kidd and the other employees for the colt’s death. He claims they didn’t give the horse appropriate feed as instructed and didn’t feed him regularly.

“They did not do what they were told,” Hoffman said. “They did not feed the animals they were told. They were lying to us.”

Hoffman admits about 10 horses have died on the ranch since January, but not the 30 plus claimed by former employees. He insists none of the horses died as a result of mistreatment.

Hoffman’s horse operation was investigated by Montgomery County Precinct 5 Constable David Hill in October after neighbor and former employee J.J. Hill alleged many horses were undernourished.

“I’ve been around horses my entire life. They’re not supposed to look that way. Period. They need proper foot care, proper feed, proper hay,” Hill said.

The district attorney is now trying to determine if any criminal violations have been committed since the October visit.

“We are looking for destruction of any evidence, tampering of any evidence, moving carcasses, those types of deals,” Ligon said.

Late Wednesday, a judge issued an order granting Montgomery County control over the animals, which will be kept on the property until the Houston SPCA can help find other housing.

18 comments on “Texas Ranch owner, wife taken into custody during investigation into horse neglect

  1. It’s disgusting that the poor baby had to die. And this guy complains about heart pain. He had plenty of time to correct the situation. The women should file assult charges against him for the use of the weapon too. Enough is enough!! The states Dept. of Ag should have stepped in sooner Depending on the state, humane investigators can call for an immediate impoundment. It is not given often, but based in the situation it can be done. Pictures and dates help to confirm the condition of the animals. Some older horses need to be checked on regularly. However, when a large herd looks bad that definitely is a problem of a larger scale. Sometimes local vets do not like to get involved. But they too took an oath to provide humane care. I say throw the book at this couple. I bet this guy thought he was untouchable. In addition, his sentence should include the stipulation that none of the animals be returned and that he be restricted from ever owning horses any where in the USA.

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  2. Seems so often in these cases that the abusers do not look to be missing ANY meals! Look at these folks! Starving their horses while overfeeding themselves—it’s appalling and vicious to charge the people complaining against the Hoffmans.

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  3. In Illinois we have had people who had cattle and horses and if they abused either they were checked out seriously. So when you read about the Western states built on horses and cattle its disturbing to think they can do this on such a large scale and scream Nothings wrong. That is enough to make you realize what slaughtering animals has done to peoples vision and comprehension of animal abuse. They are being thorough while they cry Bundy. They are overbreeding in a horse environment thats supposedly OVERFLOWING with tribal/feral/and wild horses. The abuse and the elements that create it are disgusting. To scream foul when you are NOT taking care of them is between cruelty and horse slaughter reopening pipe dream. Theres alot to raising horses andvwhen 1 or 2 are seriously ill you call a vet. Real horsemen start a battery of meds feeds and techniques to put weight on and save horses especially young ones but when you see this type of issue you realize its intentional. Theres information All over the media on your phones and horsepeople everywhere with practical solutions. Theres simply no excuse. No excuse for 200 unbroke horses. No excuse for horses dying. No excuse for abuse. And to bla nn e Every staff member is ludicris…they could have walked outside and fired them and fed them. Theres always a scapegoat.

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  4. Not to excuse the Hoffman’s by any means, but if there were ranch workers that just quit last weekend then they are also at fault. Who could stand by while watching the people you work for starve horses and a colt to death?

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    • people have been complaining. it fell on deaf ears though. Authorities would go out and check but not look in the barn where the worst of the horses were. Did not search the property. The authorities did a really crappy job until the media got involved.

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  5. This whole story is twisted. This couple clearly were functioning beyond their means mentally, physically and of course financially. There’s some dysfunction and mental problems here. We need serious laws to protect horses from twisted people like this over breeding and neglecting.

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  6. You can read this because this one has a happy ending but the point of the story is that we must be the voice for all animals – wild and domesticated.

    “He stood in the pen beside the road for six months, baking in the hot sun, standing in the filth and the mud, waiting for someone to look, for someone to notice. There was no way for people to avoid seeing him. He was there, beside the road, growing thinner and weaker by the day.”
    http://www.habitatforhorses.org/ziggy/

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  7. Of course he blames the help for not feeding them correctly. Sick. That’s why in October, he knew he was under the gun, and he of course never paid attention to the care the ‘help’ was giving…thus being all their fault. Hope they stick it to him. They have to jail time and financially, or they will continue to do the same thing.

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  8. These people are typical hoarders, everyone I have ever heard of reacted the same way blaming every one but themselves. I wonder if they were always late paying the people working for them? There was no mention of anything like that happening in the article so they had money to make a payroll so why didn’t they buy hay for the horses? But they need jail time and the horses removed.

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  9. The Hoffmans need jail time and I hope they can never own horses again!! This is so horrific. A Facebook group has been working diligently on this also. They are near the location, and if you are in Texas, help will be needed in the form of the following items. Here is the call out: Posted Friday 6/26/15 “TOMORROW 6/27-HSPCA and SHeila will be accepting donations of supplies in the parking lot of TRACTOR SUPPLY CO @ 27400 Tomball Parkway, Tomball TX 77357 between 10am-12noon. Supply items needed including halters, lead ropes, feed and water buckets, fly masks, vet wraps, antibiotic ointment, gauze and dressings in unopened packages, unused vet supplies, medicated shampoos, salt/mineral blocks, electrolytes, any thing you think they can use. Tractor Supply Company in Tombull also has horse supplies for sale, if you wish to purchase items to donate as well. They do not take credit cards over the phone, or offer discounts on anything other than bulk feeds..The HSPCA and League Line Horses THANK YOU!!”

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