Graham horse owner charged with animal cruelty

GRAHAM, Wash. -- A Graham man accused of keeping dozens of horses in deplorable conditions was charged Thursday with 10 counts of animal cruelty.

John Diller, 69, is accused of neglecting the 39 horses he kept on his 99 acre property. DEA agents executing a search warrant on the property in September {A href=""}found the horses and alerted Pierce County Animal Control.

"We are holding the owner accountable for cruelty to the animals," Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said in a news release. "And we are working with the Pierce County Auditor's Office to find good homes for the horses."

The horses were living in three run-down barns and paddocks filled with feces and urine. Prosecutors say most of the horses were underweight, had poor muscle tone and had overgrown and cracked hooves. The horses were seized and taken in for medical treatment, but eight of them had be euthanized for medical reasons or dangerous behavior.

In September, Brian Bowman with Animal Control said some of the horses lived in the dark.

"Lots of standing urine, feces some of the barns where the horses were kept are pitch black," he said. "The horses have maybe a pin hole they can see out of for any kind of light, period."

Piece County has already spent more than $62,000 caring for the horses, though $17,000 of that came from public donations and in-kind donations, according to prosecutors.

Diller petitioned for the return of the horses, and in November a district judge found that he'd cleaned and repaired enough of his property to accommodate 15 horses. The judge allowed the return of 11 of the seized horses.

Speaking {A href=""}on his client's behalf after the seizure, Diller's attorney said his client loved and cared for all of his horses.

"He gets home from work and he spends the rest of his evening every single day working on behalf of those horses," said attorney Lance Hester.

Diller is set to be arraigned December 27, and prosecutors say they could still file more charges in the case.