Owner of Charles City County farm for students found guilty of abuse, stripped of her animals

Virginia News

CHARLES CITY COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The owner of the Independence “Fun”ie Farm, an area farm for students and children, was stripped of her animals and found guilty of abuse in court Wednesday.

Theresia Connell has been running a farming high school on her Charles City County property but the more than two dozen horses and goats that used to stay at the farm now belong to the county. The decision comes after witnesses reported seeing no signs of hay anywhere on the property for the animals, a goat too weak to walk into a trailer and abnormally thin horses.

“They remind me of Holocaust victims,” said Connell’s neighbor George Cooke, “I am sorry to say when I looked at them beside the fence.”

Cooke says Connell’s horses were in bad shape, with their ribs exposed, the last time he saw them. Cooke, a horse owner himself, testified in court that the horses escaped multiple times to his property looking for food.

A sheriff’s deputy testified that when he searched Connell’s property there was no hay or grass to be found, just one bag of horse feed in Connell’s car.

“I think the decision was just,” Cooke said. “The animals have been seized as I understand it and now the animals can have a long life.”

The sheriff’s deputy also told the judge he found the bones of two horses and five goats piled high on Connell’s Charles City County property. Connell admitted four horses had died in the year and a half she’s lived there.

A veterinarian who examined the horses, goats, sheep and a donkey testified in court that all horses were emaciated and it was his opinion the majority of the animals had not been given enough food.

“No comment, no thank you,” Connell told WFXR’s sister station, WRIC, when asked about the decision on Wednesday. “No comment, no thank you.”

Outside of court, Connell didn’t want to talk about losing her farm animals. Inside of court, she admitted the animals were skinny but said it was due to some bad batches of hay, heavy rain that wiped out the grass and a battle with parasites.

Connell and supporters of the farming school said she was treating and feeding the animals. She can appeal Wednesday’s ruling.

“I can’t make that decision,” Connell’s attorney told 8News when asked about a possible appeal. “That is entirely in the hands of my client.”

There is a $3,000 bond, to cover the county’s cost of housing the animals, attached if Connell decides to appeal.

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