Woman charged with starving horses

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Diane Silbaugh

Two animals dead; Diane Silbaugh facing cruelty charges

By Carol McIntire


A Carrollton area woman charged with starving four horses, appeared via video from the county jail for an arraignment hearing March 10 in Carroll County Municipal Court. 

Two of the horses are dead and the other two are being nursed back to health in foster care facilities.

Diane K. Silbaugh, 69, who told Judge Gary Willen she lives in a camper trailer at ABC Campgrounds, showed no remorse or emotion – only nodded her head – when Willen read the charges: Count 1: Cruelty to Animals  horse #1, a mare; Count 2: Cruelty to Animals, Horse #2, a mare; Count 3: Cruelty to Animals, horse #3, a deceased stallion; and Count 4: Cruelty to Animals, horse #4, a deceased mare.

All charges are second-degree misdemeanors and carry a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. 

  Two of the horses were found dead inside a barn where Silbaugh kept the horses in Harrison Twp. The other two horses (a mare and her two-year-old filly daughter) were found alive in the barn and were removed from the property by the Carroll County Humane Society Feb. 24.

Carroll County Assistant Prosecutor Adam Lumley noted Silbaugh has a history of this type of actions, having been convicted of cruelty to animals (horses) previously in Stow Municipal Court and Portage County.

“The property owner where the horses were stabled had a previous concern the horses were not being cared for, which is documented,” Lumley stated. The woman’s grandson, who lives in a home near the barn, heard noises in the barn and went to investigate. He found the four horses, two dead, all inside the barn. 

Lumley said at one time there had been stalls in the barn, but many of the walls were gone –chewed and eaten away by the horses.

“In addition to the malnutrition and malnourishment of the horses, the horses hooves had not been cared for and there were issues with that as well,” Lumley said.

He asked for a $50,000 cash bond with no 10 percent feature, due to the fact that Silbaugh could hook her camper trailer to a truck and leave the county to avoid prosecution.

Willen agreed to the $50,000 bond, but allowed a 10 percent feature with a GPS monitoring bracelet. 

A preliminary hearing is scheduled March 23 at 10:30 a.m.

Humane Society Investigator Merle Long said the investigation into Silbaugh care of the horses began in May 2021 with the lack of care for the horses’ feet.

“We ran into some snags with it or the other two may still be alive,” Long told The Messenger. “The two horses which are still alive could get out into the pasture, but I don’t think the other two ever saw the light of day.”

Silbaugh had previous convictions for cruelty to animals in Stow Municipal Court and Portage County Common Pleas Court, both of which involved horses being starved to death.

Silbaugh accepted a plea deal in August 2015 in Stow Municipal Court and avoided a jury trial. 

Silbaugh and her husband, Thomas Silbaugh, who has since died, pleaded guilty to one count of Cruelty to animals. Three other counts were dismissed. Both were sentenced to 90 days in jail, ordered to pay a $750 fine and pay restitution of $12,296.82 for veterinary expenses and care for the seized horses. Both were placed on a one-year probation. 

In that case, 14 horses and five rabbits were removed from a Cuyahoga Falls residence. According to an article that appeared in the Record-Courier, the Humane Society of Greater Akron said all the animals were found without adequate food, water or shelter and some were in need of immediate medical attention. Three of the horses had to be put down. 

Silbaugh also has a 2008 conviction for cruelty to animals in Portage County. She pleaded guilty to grand theft, forgery and 10 counts of Cruelty to Animals and was sentenced to six months in jail, five years probation and 100 hours of community service. She was also ordered to pay $24,363 in restitution to the Portage County Animal Protection League and relinquished ownership of horses for which she failed to care. Common Pleas Judge John Enlow prohibited Silbaugh from owning any horses during the probation period. She failed to pay the restitution and probation fees. Less than two months before her probation was set to end (March 26, 2008), a motion was filed to revoke Silbaugh’s probation. During a hearing, the restitution was reduced to a judgment entry and the past due fees were turned over to a collection agency. Silbaugh appealed the case to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the decision of the Portage County court, and then appealed the case to the Ohio Supreme Court, which denied to hear the case and dismissed the appeal, saying it did not involve any substantial constitutional question.

According to the Record-Courier article, 20 malnourished horses were seized by Brimfield Police and Happy Trails Horse Rescue from the facility where she boarded the animals in Brimfield. Four were found dead and two others died by the time Silbaugh was ordered to give up custody of all the horses. 

A Facebook page was created in February 2015 named “No More Animals for Diane”, which chronicles Silbaugh’s horse activities, including an August 2018 post stating she was looking for a place in Ravenna or Carroll County to board two horses until her barn was built. The post stated Silbaugh was telling barn owners she had a stud and a filly and neither could be turned out in pasture fields because they “challenge” fence. 

Carroll County Humane Society President Shirl Berry said the society is paying for feed and veterinary care for the seized horses while in foster care. Once rehabilitated, they may be eligible for adoption, with the person providing the foster care having first option. 

Anyone who would like to make a donation to help pay for the horses’ care should send a check to Carroll County Humane Society, Box 61, Carrollton, OH 44615.

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