Zuni couple plead guilty

Published 1:34 am Saturday, April 4, 2009

ISLE OF WIGHT—The Zuni couple who own a farm where horses and dogs were found in unhealthy conditions in January pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges in Isle of Wight County General District Court.

Jeffrey Stuart Hansford and Diana Bonney Hansford each pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of depriving an animal of food or drink, a Class 1 misdemeanor. Prosecutors dropped 16 and 18 additional counts of the same charge against Jeffrey and Diana Hansford, respectively, and a misdemeanor charge against Jeffrey Hansford for operating a kennel without a license.

The court forbade the Hansfords from owning more than five horses and five dogs at the same time.

The couple were also ordered to pay $5,500 in restitution to Isle of Wight County for emergency care of the horses, and $15,000 to golden retriever rescue groups.

Each animal cruelty charge carried a maximum punishment of up to 12 months in jail, and a fine of up to $2,500.

Authorities removed 23 horses and 70 golden retrievers from the couple’s Pine Meadows Quarter Horse farm, located on Sand Pit Road near Zuni, on Jan. 21 after receiving calls from concerned neighbors that the animals were living in squalid conditions and a dead horse was seen on the property. Animal rescue groups from Richmond to Hampton Roads have taken in the horses and golden retrievers, and are trying to bring them back to health.

Members of the Richmond and Tidewater regions of the United State Equine Rescue League cared for the horses, while the group SEVA GRREAT — Southeastern Virginia Golden Retriever Rescue, Education and Training Inc. — has taken in an undisclosed number of golden retrievers from the farm.