A La Plata County woman who had more than 100 animals seized from her property in 2017 was sentenced Friday to three years’ probation after pleading guilty to five counts of animal cruelty.
Eight people accompanied Elizabeth Jackson to her sentencing hearing in La Plata County Court, including her father, brother and family friends. Jackson sobbed throughout most of the 40-minute court hearing, often seen and heard hyperventilating between deep breaths.
“I loved the animals,” Jackson said through tears and sniffles. “... Every single one of those animals had a name.”
Animal Protection accused Jackson of 115 counts of animal cruelty after the agency seized as many animals from a derelict property in southwest La Plata County. Prosecutors reduced the number of charges to 31 counts of animal abuse after an intensive investigation by law enforcement found the animals lived in cages filled with urine and feces.
Animals had injuries that went untreated or lacked access to water and food – one horse was in such poor condition it had to be euthanized.
Assistant District Attorney David Ottman told County Court Judge Dondi Osborne he has no reason to believe Jackson is “a bad person.” The animals were “loved to death,” he said.
“She does, in her own way, love these animals,” Ottman said. “... She was making some effort, although wholly inadequate, to take care of the animals.”
Gordon Baxter, who spoke as a character witness on Jackson’s behalf, told Judge Osborne he “pretty much grew up with” the defendant.
“I know her grandmother gave her a sense of things to do that were right,” Baxter told the judge. “I’ve never known Liz to go against what she was taught.”
The terms of the plea agreement forbid Jackson from owning animals during the length of her three-year probation. Osborne gave La Plata County Animal Protection and La Plata County Probation officers the authority to randomly search her property to ensure no livestock or pets are under Jackson’s care.
Defense attorney Eric Morrow asked that his client be able to own one dog.
“It was a crime of negligence and she’s taken responsibility; she got overwhelmed with animals – she had too many to take care of,” Morrow said. “It would be in the defendant’s and therefore society’s best interest that she have a dog.”
Law enforcement in 2017 seized a small Shih Tzu mix with severely matted hair that “was stuck to the floor of the residence by its own feces,” according to court documents.
Most animals, according to court records, were housed in a manner that resulted in “chronic or repeated serious physical harm.” The accounts show they were also deprived of necessary sustenance, mistreated and neglected.
Also, nearly all the animals were in danger of stepping on “numerous amounts of metal debris” on the property. Several animals had been injured by the metal debris, including a pig found with a nail in its foot, according to court documents.
“Whatever the root cause, the conditions were unacceptable and criminal,” Osborne said before denying Jackson’s request for a dog. “The suffering of these animals was real.”
Jackson, who has also gone by the last name of Miera, may still be liable for restitution to La Plata County Animal Protection for costs of seizing the animals. If she violates her probation – either by breaking the law or owning an animal – Jackson could face one to two years in jail. She’s also responsible for 50 hours of useful community service, as long as it doesn’t involve the care of animals.