In a reversal of a previous order, a Toledo Municipal Court judge ordered a South Toledo man to surrender his well-known horse during sentencing Wednesday for cruelty.
Wayne Banks, 64, of the 200 block of Mozart Street, pleaded no contest and was found guilty last month to a misdemeanor count of animal cruelty. A second count was dismissed as part of a plea deal.
The horse, an Appaloosa named Apache, has been a fixture in the neighborhood off Western Avenue near the Anthony Wayne Trail. He frequently was tethered in vacant lots to graze and had recently been kept inside a vacant house on the block. Mr. Banks often rode the horse in the area and allowed children to ride as well.
The Toledo Area Humane Society seized Apache on March 23 after monitoring the situation for more than a year. The organization accused Mr. Banks of not providing proper shelter, food, or water for the horse.
Judge Michelle Wagner had previously ordered Apache returned to Mr. Banks, pending the humane society’s inspection and approval of the horse’s proposed living environment.
Mr. Banks told Judge Wagner on Wednesday that he could afford to board Apache at a Michigan stable and continue to care for him, and that his children help pay for expenses.
“It’s not just my horse. It’s my grandkids’ horse, my kids’ horse. It’s my therapy,” he said. “I love my horse and I take care of my horse.”
The judge said she appreciated how much Mr. Banks cared for Apache, but had “grave concerns” about his financial ability to provide adequate care for a large, expensive animal.
“These type of cases are always difficult when it’s someone like you,” she said. “There are people who are cruel to animals and abusive to animals, who are willfully neglectful to their animals. And then there are people who lack the means and ability to care for their animals. I’d put you in the latter category.”
Megan Brown, the humane society cruelty investigator on the case, notified the court that Mr. Banks had gotten 270 pounds of dog food from the organization Tuesday to feed at least five dogs he owns. Another cruelty investigator left notices at his property Monday and Tuesday for the dogs not having proper shelter or water.
“It seems to be a pattern of not being able to care for what he has,” Ms. Brown told the court.
Mr. Banks was visibly upset by the judge’s order to surrender Apache and made a quick exit at the conclusion of the hearing.
“I know this is disappointing for you, but I just do not feel that you have the adequate means to care for this animal,” Judge Wagner told Mr. Banks. “And my hope is, is that you use what they give you to adequately care for the dogs so you don’t lose them as well.”
Judge Wagner also sentenced him to 90 days at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio and a $750 fine, both suspended, and five years of probation during which he is not to own any horse or large animal and allow humane agents unfettered access to his property and a nearby rental.
Ms. Brown said she was satisfied with the court’s conclusion to a case “that’s been dragging on for so long.” She said it is always difficult to remove animals from an owner that clearly loves them but does not have the means to care for them properly.
“From the very start, you always hope you can just better the situation, they can stay with the person that loves them. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way,” she said.
She said the organization made every effort to work with Mr. Banks and offer solutions, but ultimately had to remove Apache in the horse’s best interest. She said he is “loving life” and has put on some weight in his foster home. Several people have already expressed an interest in adopting him.
“He’s a lovely horse, so I’m sure we’ll have no issues finding him the best home possible,” she said.