Friday, August 7, 2015

Animal Cruelty Investigation Continues

Sheriff Ron Lockhart said the investigation into animal cruelty allegations against a Sallisaw horse trainer is continuing and on Thursday he was taking statements from the last two witnesses.

Robert Dimitt, 57, is free on a $25,000 bond after his arrest Monday on three felony counts of cruelty to animals. The alleged cruelty came to light when an agent, Charlotte Northam of Ada, came to pick up horses for an owner, Dr. Edward Leslie of Frankfort, Kentucky.

Northam discovered that one of the three horses she was to pick up was dead. Another was in such bad shape it was destroyed. And the third, the top earning 3-year-old Quarter Horse filly in the country, was crippled. Northam reported what she found at Dimitt's racing facilities to Lockhart on July 9, which prompted the investigation.

Lockhart said Dimitt had about 22 horses at his local horse farm and had another 15 horses at Blue Ribbon Downs. Investigators found several horse carcasses at the farm. Most of the remaining horses had been retrieved on Thursday by their owners or by other trainers, Lockhart said. Lockhart said local veterinarians  were checking the horses for soundness. It is alleged that Dimitt mutilated the horses' hooves to make them "run faster." Lockhart said additional charges against Dimitt may be filed as owners and trainers retrieve horses in Dimitt's care.

"No local veterinarian was consulted about these horses," Lockhart said. "He knew they would realize what he had done."

Lockhart said the Cherokee Marshals assisted with the investigation at the Blue Ribbon Downs training center, now operated by the Cherokee Nation. Another investigation is underway in Ruidoso, New Mexico, where Leslie's filly, Gold Digging Ashley, was stabled. Northam said the filly is now located at an Edmond veterinary clinic. Lockhart said her owner turned down $500,000 for Gold Digging Ashley in May. The filly has won $355,195 in several stakes and has a 105 Speed Index. Northam stated that the filly will never race again and can barely stand.

Dimitt does not have a license to race in Oklahoma, after he was suspended for three years for drugging horses by the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission. His horses raced under the names of two other individuals.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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