Animal Cruelty Case Ends in Guilty Pleas - Ventura County, CA


A neglected mare and her foal arrive at the Humane Society of Ventura County.

On Friday, January 18th, the Humane Society of Ventura County had a huge victory in the courts when two local men were found guilty of animal cruelty.  The first defendant, Felipe De Jesus Flores Avila pleaded guilty to Penal Code 597 - Cruelty to an Animal, for his mistreatment of a senior miniature horse, Zoey, and received 45 days in jail, fined, and cannot own or possess an animal for five years and must also pay restitution fees to the Humane Society of Ventura County to cover the cost of the horses care.

The second defendant, Marco Antonio Cerda Escobar, pleaded guilty to two counts of Cruelty to an Animal for his poor treatment of a mare and her foal. Escobar received 30 days in jail, fined, and cannot own or possess an animal for five years and must pay restitution fees to the Humane Society of Ventura County to cover the cost of the horses care.


Horses were rescued from deplorable conditions at a ranch in Camarillo, California.

Animal cruelty is a serious crime in the state of California, and Humane Officers are critical to bringing justice for animals abused and neglected within the County of Ventura. Section 2 of California Penal Code 597 describes Cruelty to an Animal as Overloading or overworking an animal, beating, hurting, or killing an animal, depriving an animal of food, water, or shelter from the weather, or abusing and/or causing an animal to suffer in any way.

All three horses were rescued from a property in Camarillo, California, after Senior Humane Officer Vail and Humane Officer Winwood responded to a call from a concerned citizen. When Humane Officers Vail and Winwood and equine veterinarian Marta Granstedt arrived on the scene they were appalled by the condition of the miniature horse, foal, and mare. Dr. Granstedt described the mare and foal’s corral as “a sea of filth with no food or water and no dry place for the horses to lie down.” Dr. Granstedt continued “The mare is in bad condition. She has sacrificed her body to provide milk for the foal. This mare has intentionally been ignored and neglected.”


A mare and foal were rescued from life in a filthy corral.

When Zoey, the miniature horse, was found she was unable to walk on the soles of her hooves due to her feet being 8-10 inches overgrown. She was extremely emaciated and scored a one (lowest score) on the Henneke Horse Body Condition Scale. Besides the overgrowth on her hooves making it difficult for her to walk, it also made it impossible for her to compete with the other horses for food. “This little mare has been severely neglected. Yes, she is old, but age is no excuse for neglect,” wrote Dr. Granstedt in her official report to the Deputy District Attorney.


A senior miniature mare was found severely neglected.

The horses were quickly transported to the shelter where the staff was preparing for their immediate care. Farrier Stacy Hyatt and her assistant Jay helped to evaluate, treat, and trim the hooves of the horses. The horses have already made drastic improvements here at the shelter where they are continuously cared for by Shelter staff under the supervision of Marta Granstedt, DVM.

Each month Humane Officers may assist hundreds of animals and people, making a positive impact on our community by ensuring that our most vulnerable creatures receive the help they need. Director of Investigations R.J. Hoffman explains, “Humane officers are unique in law enforcement. They have the powers of a peace officer and can make arrests, and serve search warrants.” Officers protect animals from abusive or neglectful animal owners, strive to educate the public on how to care for them properly, and to prosecute when necessary.


Veterinarians and staff check on the wellbeing of the senior mare. 

We would like to bring attention to our hardworking team here at the Humane Society of Ventura County. When not out on rescue missions during the Hill and Woolsey fires, Senior Humane Officer T. Vail and Humane Officer K. Winwood worked tirelessly putting a case together against the defendants with the oversight of Director of Investigations R.J. Hoffman. Each of our staff members played a crucial role in the daily care of these animals along with the help of our dedicated volunteers who made their wellbeing and comfort at the shelter a top priority.


Farrier Stacy Hyatt takes care of the hooves on Olive, a young foal rescued in the field. 

Thank you to Deputy District Attorney John Poore and Jillian Ewan for supporting the humane treatment of animals in Ventura County. We also to thank Dr. Marta Granstedt DVM, her assistants Lori Seely, and Lynda Kovisto, Kevin Smith DVM, and farrier Stacy Hyatt for their expertise and commitments to animals in need. Dr. Granstedt and farrier Stacy Hyatt were critical in getting this case filed with the courts by providing detailed accounts of the animals' health and their living conditions. Thank you as well to our rescue team volunteers for their assistance in the physical rescue of the animals. None of this would be possible without the help of our supporters. Thank you to everyone who made a donation, contributed their time, or shared this story. As a private nonprofit we rely one hundred percent on your support to bring justice to the neglected and abused animals of Ventura County!


Volunteers were vital in making the rescue horses comfortable in their new home.

The Humane Society of Ventura County's ability to serve its community is directly linked to the support we receive from people like you. It is with your help and the dedication of our Director of Investigations and Humane Officers that we are able to continue to educate Ventura County on the plight of animal rescue for more than 85 years.

If you would like to make a donation to help support our rescue efforts please visit our website at

**CORRECTION: 01/23 9:30 am. Defendant Marco Antonio Cerda Escobar pleaded guilty on one account of Cruelty to an animal. Besides jail time, paying a fine, and not possessing an animal for 5 years both Escobar and Avila are required to complete the B.A.R.C. Program. The Benchmark Animal Rehabilitative Curriculum (B.A.R.C.) is a powerful and comprehensive online course designed to inspire change in attitudes and actions toward animals in individuals who have mistreated them. **

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