Splendora Man Charged with Felony Animal Cruelty

SPLENDORA, October 26, 2012 - Pct. 4 Livestock Deputy Constable Dwayne Morrow arrested a Splendora man Thursday evening for dragging a donkey with a rope tied to the trailer hitch of his SUV and leaving it severely injured on the roadside.

Marc Richard Saunders, 30, of 14495 West Lake Circle in Splendora is charged with state jail felony Animal Cruelty.

Morrow said while some animal cruelty charges are misdemeanors, Saunders’ charge was raised to the felony level based on evidence he knowingly and intentionally injured the animal.

The bizarre chain of events began when Saunders went to visit friends in New Caney around lunchtime and arrived just as someone called saying they found the family’s pet donkey, Susie Q, wandering loose around the corner and secured her on Acorn Hill Drive, so someone could go and get her. Another friend, who was staying with the family, was going to get Susie Q and walk her home, but he said Saunders insisted on driving and said they could tie the donkey to his trailer hitch and slowly lead her home.

The other man agreed, and the pair went to where Susie Q was tied. The second man sat on the open tailgate of Saunders’s black Chevy Blazer as they headed home with the donkey connected to the vehicle by a rope. At first, the man said Saunders drove slowly, and Susie Q was able to keep up. But then, he said Saunders sped up, and the donkey sat down, straightening her front legs to try and stop.

The man on the tailgate said he yelled and pleaded with Saunders to stop, but Saunders said it was “fine” and then increased his speed. The man on the tailgate said as he continued to yell to Saunders, helplessly watching the donkey being injured by the pavement, Susie Q fell over on her side and Saunders kept driving. The second man estimated Saunders’s speed at around 40 miles per hour as he dragged the donkey approximately one-quarter mile down Acorn Hill toward Pickering Road, but Morrow said it may have seemed faster because of the witness’s position.

The blood trail left by the donkey supported the witness’s story and showed Saunders drove at least 10 to 15 feet further after Susie Q fell on her side when the pavement had ground off her hooves between 1.5 and 2 inches, exposing raw flesh and bone.

When Saunders finally stopped, the witness said he walked to the back of the vehicle, and when he saw the bloody injured donkey Saunders unhooked her rope from the trailer hitch and fled the area. After his arrest, Saunders claimed he never drove that fast while pulling Susie Q and left because he had to meet his daughter’s school bus.

Someone later reported seeing the donkey on the side of the road, believing she was struck by a vehicle. Deputy Morrow’s investigation soon revealed the truth and he found Saunders and took him into custody.

A veterinarian went to the scene and treated the injured donkey that was ultimately dragged home on a makeshift sled, unable to walk. The vet could not immediately say whether Susie Q would recover from the injuries.

The Pct. 4 Constable’s Office Livestock Division handles all livestock calls east of I-45.

Chief Deputy Barry Welch said livestock deputies play an important role in the county.

“Constable Hayden and I are thankful to have experienced livestock deputies,” Welch said. “Most people would probably be surprised at how many livestock calls we receive.”

“Fortunately, this extreme abuse was an unusual case,” he said. “But we do respond to abuse calls and neglect calls regularly, as well as the frequent traffic hazard calls when large animals get out on the road and are a danger to themselves and drivers.”  

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