RANDOLPH COUNTY — A Randolph County judge said the evidence used to seize a woman's horses was illegally obtained and ordered the horses returned to her.
According to court records, the woman was charged in December 2020 with one count of cruelty to an animal after an animal control officer found four horses in poor health.
On July 16, a Randolph County judge said the animal control officer illegally obtained photos of the horses and then used the photos to obtain a search warrant to seize the horses.
According to an order filed in the Randolph County Superior Court, the judge said the animal control officer said he could see the animals from the porch and that all the pictures were taken from the porch and never left the driveway, which would be accessible to the public.
"That testimony is not credible as the close ups of the horses do not show the gated enclosure they were in and could only have been taken inside the pen," the judge wrote.
In December, court records show the horses were kept in an area with metal and wood in poor condition and they had no foliage, food or hay.