Three Hills Rodeo owner David Morehead pleads guilty to 36 counts of horse cruelty
Cowboys admit improper transport of rodeo horses
January 24, 2006
Lafayette Hills, PA – District Justice Deborah Lukens imposed fines and court costs of $5,000.00 against Three Hills Rodeo owner David Morehead, 50, and employee Matthew Delarm, 26, both of Bernard, Iowa who pled guilty in Lafayette Hills District Court this week to 36 counts of horse cruelty in the Pennsylvania Horse Transport Law case involving 36 horses that were being transported in two separate double deck cattle trailers from the Liberty Pro Rodeo in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania on Sunday September 18, 2005. Both men were the drivers of the Three Hill Rodeo double deck trailers carrying the 36 horses.
Whitemarsh Police Department, WPD, made the arrests under Pennsylvania Horse Transport Law, Title 18, 5511(e.1) passed in July 2001. The first double deck cattle trailer had 17 horses and an undetermined number of bulls and the second double deck trailer had a total of 19 horses on with four horses in the nose deck, eleven on the top deck, and four more horses in the rear of the trailer, known as the `doghouse'. The bulls were on the bottom deck of the trailer.
Whitemarsh Police Department made the arrests after receiving information from the Pennsylvania State Police that two double deck trailers owned by Three Hills Rodeo, Bernard, Iowa were transporting horses on double deck trailers in violation of the Pennsylvania Horse Transport Law. When Whitemarsh Police pulled the two trailers over and informed Three Hills of the violations. Morehead stated, “He had never heard of such a thing”. The rodeo promoter incorrectly stated that the Pennsylvania Horse Transport Law only applies to slaughter horses “who are crouched down” in double deck trailers, and “not these horses” gesturing at the rodeo horses on the top deck of the double deck trailer.
Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Aliena Gerhard stated, “The law is clear. The prohibitions are clear. Subsection e1 of the animal cruelty law (found at 18 Pa.C.S.A. 5511) otherwise known as the "double decker" law, is one of Pennsylvania 's strongest criminal laws. Its language is definitive. Further, the statute ensures that violators are charged for each and every equine animal they illegally transport.” A second conviction under this section is a misdemeanor which would result in a permanent criminal record for anyone convicted of violating the PA Horse Transport Law a second time. Gerhard stated, “The escalating penalty for a subsequent violation means violators face up to one year in prison for each count charged. People do not get to choose which laws should apply to them. Violators caught in Pennsylvania will be prosecuted and may go to prison.”
The fine is the highest dollar amount ever imposed since the Pennsylvania Horse Transport Law went into effect in August 2001.The fine is the second highest dollar amount in the history of double deck laws in New York and Pennsylvania, the highest fine of $11,100 imposed by Essex County, NY Judge Strothenke in 1994 against David Carper a driver for his father Frank Carper a New Jersey horse dealer who deals in slaughter horses.
The Equine Protection Network’s Christine Berry is elated at the outcome. “Whitemarsh Police Department and Lieutenant Bowers did an excellent job enforcing the law. Everybody involved did their part; the citizen who witnessed the trucks and made the call, the Pennsylvania State Police investigation, ADA Gerhard’s efforts and Judge Lukens sentencing. The guilty plea in this case proves that Pennsylvania law can be enforced by law enforcement personnel that have no training or familiarity with horses, no horse industry experts are needed, law enforcement does not need to take the horses, and the law applies to all horses no matter what their final destination.”
In addition to this crime, rodeo owner David Morehead was also found guilty in April 2001 of Fraudulent Practice in the 5th Degree for failing to have veterinary certificates for his rodeo animals. The fine was $1,650.00.