When Neglect Turns to Abuse – Broward Man Faces 29 Charges for Animal Neglect and Cruelty
March 30, 2023 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, News & Announcements Social Share
When someone commits to owning an animal, whether as a pet or for commercial purposes, there are expected needs to be fulfilled. This includes providing the animal with food, water, and shelter, and refraining from treating it in an inhumane manner. If anyone fails to do so and it results in the injury or death of an animal, the person responsible may be charged with animal cruelty.
In a recent Florida case, a man in Davie is now facing over twenty charges for mistreating the animals on his ranch. This page will provide the case details, along with the relevant charges in Florida.
What was the Incident?
Arnold Musgrove, 39, was arrested in relation to not caring for animals on his property in Southwest Ranches. According to the Davie Police Department’s report, the first time an officer went to the ranch was on January 7th, 2023. The officer documented that Musgrove had three horses on his property—a 16-year-old Belgian Draft horse named Stormy, a 25-year-old Portofino horse named Cappricio, and a 21-year-old Portofino horse named Nala.
The officers arrived at the ranch in response to allegations of animal neglect and cruelty. However, Musgrove denied them a search and claimed they were, “interrupting his workout and would need to make an appointment.”
Over a month later on February 27th, 2023, Davie officer Christi Laguna received images from a witness of one of Musgrove’s horses on the ground with a tarp covering it. The horse appeared trapped and was kicking its back legs. The following day Laguna went to the ranch, but Musgrove again denied entry, claiming he would only do so with legal representation present.
On March 6th, Laguna returned to the ranch and saw a horse—presumed to be Nala—from the roadway and took a picture of her. Laguna stated that the horse appeared in “poor condition” and underweight. The officer called Musgrove to ask if he had met with an animal services officer, but he responded that he wouldn’t speak with the police without an attorney.
Musgrove claimed that the allegations of neglect felt “targeted” due to him being the “new Black man in the neighborhood.” He then made several references to the investigation being a “racial issue.”
Laguna returned to the ranch yet again on March 7th, when she saw a horse believed to be Stormy “trying to eat out of a small square bucket that was half flipped over.”
“From what I could observe, the quality of the hay was poor,” Laguna wrote. “The horse was very thin, its ribs were prominent, tailhead prominent, hook bones and pin bones were also prominent.”
On March 9th, police obtained a search warrant and Laguna was able to return to fully inspect the ranch. Upon further inspection, Laguna wrote that the property was full of dangerous debris that could be easily accessed by the horses. This included broken metal and plastics, and a black SUV on jacks.
When inspecting the garage converted into a one-stall barn, Laguna wrote that the quality of food was lacking.
“The feed consisted of bags of cracked corn and pellets, there was only a few flakes of hay, which appeared to be very dry and dusty; poor quality coastal hay,” she wrote. A veterinarian later confirmed that the food had “no nutritional value.”
Only one of the three horses was found on the property—Nala. She was found by Laguna to be starving and breathing heavily. The horse had poorly-cared for teeth, untrimmed hooves, and corneal ulcers in both eyes. There were no traces of food or water near the horses. When a veterinarian inspected Nala, they recommended euthanasia.
Police asked Musgrove about the other two horses, but at first, he denied owning three. When he was reminded of the previous report, Musgrove claimed to have not owned the other two for a while. When researched further, it appeared that a service responsible for picking up dead animals had gone to the ranch on February 27th and 28th, 2023.
There were other animals found on the farm, including two goats tied up with no water, and six pigs in enclosures with “dirty water full of mud, bugs, and feces. There were also two boars, one sow, and six piglets in another enclosure with “water full of mud, muck, and insect larvae.”
The officers and veterinarian found six more goats that had water, but no food or grass to graze on. When the vet threw them a branch of leaves, the officers reported that the goats “all went crazy” as if they hadn’t eaten in a long time.
Musgrove has been arrested and charged with 26 counts of unlawful abandonment or confinement of an animal, and three counts of animal cruelty.
In legal terms, neglect is defined as when a person fails or omits to do something that is expected or required of them. According to the National Sheriff’s Association, animal neglect is a form of animal cruelty in which the owner of an animal or other person expected to care for an animal fails to provide adequate care.
Animal neglect can involve the following conduct:
- Abandonment without the proper food, water, and/or shelter;
- Failure to provide proper food, water, and/or shelter;
- Failure to provide medical care;
- Hoarding an excessive amount of animals;
- Owning or operating a “puppy mill”;
- Starvation; and/or
- Tethering a dog outside without proper care.
Animal Cruelty Charges
In the state of Florida, animal cruelty offenses can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Florida Statute Section 828.12 explains the following penalties for animal cruelty offenses:
A first-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty charge is considered when a person torments, overloads, overdrives, deprives of necessary shelter or sustenance, unnecessarily mutilates, kills any animal, or causes the same to be done to any animal in a cruel or inhuman manner. Similarly, having any animal in a vehicle in a cruel or inhumane way can result in a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalty for a first-degree misdemeanor includes up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.
A third-degree felony animal cruelty charge is considered aggravated animal abuse, and is for the following two offenses:
- A person intentionally commits an act to any animal that results in excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering, or results in a cruel death, or a person who owns or is in the custody of an animal and causes any of the above.
- A person who intentionally trips, fells, ropes, or lassos the legs of a horse by any means for the purpose of entertainment or sport. “Trip” is defined as any act consisting of the use of any wire, pole, stick, rope, or other apparatus to cause a horse to fall or lose its balance.
The penalty for aggravated animal cruelty includes up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. Any person who is convicted of one of the above violations and it is found that the acts of torture or torment were intentional and resulted in the animal’s injury, mutilation, or death will be required to pay a mandatory minimum fine of $2,500. In addition, they must undergo psychological counseling or complete an anger management program.
For a second or subsequent offense, the convicted person will be required to pay a mandatory minimum fine of $5,000 and serve a mandatory minimum term of incarceration for six months. The convicted person will not be eligible for any form of early release.
If the defendant has been accused of multiple acts of animal cruelty, each instance may be charged as a separate offense. The same goes for a person who commits animal cruelty on multiple animals.
Defenses to Animal Cruelty Charges
Since animal cruelty looks at the intent of the person charged, it is important to talk to an experienced defense attorney to see if the facts of the case present an opportunity to present a defense against this charge. While maliciously hurting an animal is clearly not okay by Florida standards, if the death of the animal was done with a valid reason, then the defendant may not have broken the law.
This is because a prosecutor must one of the following three elements, that the defendant either (1) unnecessarily overloaded, overdrove, tormented, mutilated, or killed an animal; (2) that he deprived an animal of necessary sustenance or shelter; or (3) that he carried an animal in or on a vehicle in a cruel or inhumane manner.
If a defendant is found in a similar situation like the case above, and the reason they killed the animal was for a necessary reason, or if they did not deprive their animal of sustenance or shelter and have evidence corroborating this, then they may be able to raise a defense against this charge.
Similarly, a necessary reason to injure or kill an animal may involve self-defense. While no one wants to hurt an animal, if a person does so to save themselves or others from a perceived danger, they may be able to raise a self-defense issue at trial.
Finally, an experienced attorney would make sure to argue that the necessary sustenance and shelter required of an animal varies depending on the species and manner in which the animal is being raised. To put it in perspective, a house dog is not treated or expected to be raised the same way that a farm dog might be raised. Nor would they be fed or expected to be sheltered in the same way. Similarly, a hog would not be expected to be given the same type of water or food as a horse or cow. However, as first mentioned, the best way to discern what, if any, defenses may be applicable is by speaking to an experienced defense attorney in your area.
Statistics on Animal Abuse in Florida
The following is a list of statistics on animal cruelty based on the U.S. Human Society:
- Intentional animal cruelty is correlated with other violent crimes;
- Hoarding animals is considered a form of serious animal neglect, and is considered when a person has more animals in their home or on their property than they can take care of;
- The age group for those who commit animal abuse is most commonly men under 30, and the age group for those who commit hoarding animals is most commonly women over 60;
- The most commonly reported cases of abuse are those against dogs, cats, horses, and livestock;
- 71% of domestic violence victims reported that their abuser was also violent towards a pet or animal; and
- 88% of families under supervision for child abuse also reported instances of animal cruelty.
Animal Neglect Facts (Animal Legal Defense Fund) – The Animal Welfare Act requires that the minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals that are bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public. Under the act, there are set guidelines that must be followed regarding the care of the animals. The Act is enforced by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
Getting accused of an animal cruelty offense is extremely serious. A person who is convicted of animal cruelty may be forced to pay expensive fines, face imprisonment, or both. In addition, it may be difficult to own any animals in the future if there is an animal cruelty offense on your record. There is also the social stigma—your relationship with friends and family may be affected due to a conviction of a violent offense towards an animal.
If you or someone you love have been charged with a crime in Florida, you should immediately seek out legal guidance. An experienced attorney will be able to review the details of your case and help to build defense strategies. It can be confusing and stressful to try and navigate the legal world on your own. Let our attorneys at Pumphrey Law Firm help with your case. Don Pumphrey and his team have represented Florida citizens for various types of criminal allegations. We vow to fight for your freedom and your future. Contact us today at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.
Written by Karissa Key