A Mesa man arrested this week on a felony charge of animal cruelty received multiple warnings over several months to feed and water his horse, according to neighbors and officials.
James David Cude, 60, was arrested Tuesday after his quarter horse, Moe, died of starvation, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
Cude’s longtime neighbors expressed anger and frustration at the circumstances surrounding the horse’s death on July 27.
It’s just chain-link fences and barbed wire that separated Coleen Tacke from Moe. Cude’s neighbor of 10 years said she was heartbroken to watch the animal deteriorate.
“Animals can’t tell you when they hurt,” said Tacke, who had called authorities four times since June.
Authorities had given Cude several warnings after investigating complaints, according to police reports.
For the past year, Tacke said, she knew something was wrong with Moe. By summer, he was “all skin and bone.”
Another neighbor, James Murrietta, said he and other neighbors could see what was happening to Moe. “The horse just stood out there,” Murrietta said.
Authorities warned Cude to take care of his horse after a complaint from one of his neighbors on May 5, said sheriff’s spokesman Paul Chagolla.
On May 12, deputies again visited Cude’s property on East Galveston Road.
The horse’s living conditions were not “deplorable” enough to warrant the animal being taken away at that time, although a door hanger was left at the home with a “strong suggestion” to feed and water the horse, said sheriff’s spokesman Aaron Douglas.
Chagolla said authorities received other calls, each time visiting and warning Cude. “It wasn’t at that time a clear-cut case of animal abuse,” Chagolla said.
After a July 5 visit, deputies told Cude they would return in about two weeks.
It wasn’t until July 27, when county livestock officials received a call from a neighbor about Moe’s possible mistreatment, that deputies returned.
But not in time.
A state veterinarian arrived the same day and determined the horse could not be saved. He was euthanized and buried on Cude’s property.
Efforts to reach Cude for comments were unsuccessful.
Tacke said she couldn’t understand why deputies took so long.
Douglas blamed the lack of timely follow-ups on a shortage of resources.
“It isn’t that we forget about it,” Douglas said of animal abuse investigations. “Usually, if owners are spoken to, they will change the conditions for the animal.”
Douglas said Sheriff Joe Arpaio is “passionate” about prosecuting animal cruelty in the county. Arpaio has set up a MCSO Animal Safe Hospice (MASH) with the goal of providing care for animals that have been removed from neglectful owners.
Chagolla said MCSO deputies are also specifically trained to recognize animal abuse and investigate all animal cruelty calls, about 400 per month, promptly and thoroughly.
Witnesses of animal abuse in the county are encouraged to call the MCSO hot line at (602) 876-1681.