Punxsy Woman Charged with Aggravated Animal Cruelty for Emaciated Horse, Ponies Violates Probation

JEFFERSON CO., Pa. (EYT) – A Punxsutawney woman who was charged with felony animal cruelty after a horse and two ponies in her care were found severely emaciated has violated the conditions of her probation.

According to court documents, 41-year-old Nicole Lynn Shank was placed in the Jefferson County Jail on January 16 on a violation hearing.

On January 8, Shank pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony count of Aggravated Cruelty to Animals – Torture.

As a result of her plea agreement, the following charges were dismissed:

– Aggravated Cruelty to Animals – Torture, Felony 3 (one count)
– Neglect of Animals – Sustenance/Water, Misdemeanor 3

Jefferson County President Judge John H. Foradora sentenced Shank to two years probation.

She was also ordered to the following condition: The defendant shall refrain from the use of alcoholic beverages and from entering any establishments whose primary business is the sale of alcohol.

Shank is currently awaiting further court action pending this court case.

Details of the case:

According to a criminal complaint, on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, Jefferson County Humane Officer McAndrew received a call of concern regarding a white horse and a pony that appeared to be very thin located at a property on Spruce Street in Punxsutawney.

On Wednesday, April 24, Officer McAndrew arrived at the Spruce Street address and knocked at the residence, where the door was answered by a female. When Officer McAndrew asked about the horses, another female came to the door and identified herself as Nikki Shank and stated she was the owner of the horses.

According to the complaint, when asked where the white horse was, Shank stated it was over in a field behind a visible barn. When Officer McAndrew asked if she could see the horse, Shank complied and accompanied her through the yard to where the white horse was tied. Shank stated the horse was very old, and she had received it in January, allegedly in “worse shape” than it was now.

Officer McAndrew approached the horse, and along the way first observed a small brown pony, completely entangled in wire, not able to move freely on its tie out, according to the complaint.

She then proceeded to the white horse, which was tied to a tree by a slip rope around its neck.

Officer McAndrew immediately observed the severity of the horse’s body condition: every rib and bones of the spine were visible, hip bones were protruding, and the horse’s legs were shaky. She also noted there was no water container in the area. She then returned to the pony and performed a body assessment, due to its thick winter coat. She noted the pony was also in a severe state of emaciation, with every rib, as well as bones of the spine and hips protruding. The pony also had no visible water source, according to the complaint.

The complaint states that while proceeding back toward the house, Officer McAndrew came across another pony tied to a hanging wire. She performed a physical body assessment on the pony, due to it also having a thick winter coat and could again feel every rib, bones of the spine, and the hip bones, though they were not as prominent as the other horses. The second pony also had no visible source of water, though there was an overturned bucket in its vicinity.

Officer McAndrew then returned to speak to Shank again and asked if any of the horses were under any type of vet care.

According to the complaint, Shank said they were not.

Officer McAndrew contacted Willow Run Sanctuary & Adoption’s shelter vet to prepare for the horses’ arrival and then contacted shelter volunteers to bring a horse trailer to the location, as well as the Pennsylvania State Police to serve as a backup and for safety concerns.

Around 10:45 a.m., Office McAndrew informed Shank that the three horses were being removed for emergency veterinary care for their severe body conditions, which is a direct violation of Pennsylvania humane laws. The horses were then transported directly to a local veterinary office, where their body conditions were scored.

According to the complaint, on a body score of one to nine, with nine being overweight and five being a healthy horse, the brown gelding pony scored a one out of nine, the black and white gelding pony scored a two out of nine, and the white mare horse scored a one out of nine.

The horses were then transported to Willow Run Sanctuary for continued care under the direct supervision of the veterinarian.

Charges were filed on Friday, May 3, and a first-class summons was issued.


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