Animal advocates hope for stricter laws after S. Utah horse death

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CEDAR CITY -- The death of a young horse found frozen to the ground earlier this month in Iron County has animal rights advocates questioning the strictness of animal cruelty laws.

Animal control officers found the 1-year-old Appaloosa on Jan. 2 and affectionately gave her the name Elsa. She and her mother, Anna, were taken to the Dust Devil Ranch Sanctuary for Horses to heal. Rescue founder Ginger Grimes said Elsa’s strong will kept her alive 17 days, but in the end the malnourishment was too much. Saturday Elsa’s vet confirmed she wouldn’t recover.

“They took her vital signs and things like that and he was pretty sure that things were probably shutting down inside,” Grimes said of that day. “She left with everybody at her side. Everybody was there with her so she didn’t die alone.”

Volunteers say one of the most touching things about Elsa’s story was how much it touched other people -- not just in Southern Utah, but all around the world.”

“(Messages from) Germany and New Zealand,” said volunteer Sunny Smith. “And donating money. The comments that they made, it’s just amazing. That’s been the best part of this whole thing, is to see how much people really care.”

Grimes said that’s why they’re taking Elsa’s story to Utah lawmakers, hoping for stricter animal cruelty laws. The Humane Society of Utah is holding their Humane Lobby Day on Feb. 6.

“Something needs to change,” Grimes said. “People need to be held responsible.”

The rally will try and persuade lawmakers to take up the issue. Under the current law, only abuse to service animals could result in a felony charge.

Elsa and Anna’s owner, Sonn Kent Berrett, will appear in the Iron County Justice Court for an arraignment March 25.

Berrett has been charged with two counts of cruelty to animals, two counts of failure to obtain a dog license and two counts of failure to obtain rabies vaccination.

All charges are Class B misdemeanors.

For more information on the Humane Society’s Humane Lobby day, click here:


  • Bettina

    The name of the person responsible for these acts of animal cruelty is Sonn Berrett. According to his facebook page, he works as maintenance specialist for Southern Utah University.
    Should someone capable of starving and freezing horses to death work in an environment of higher learning?
    You have the possibility to write to the Iron County Attorney to demand the misdemeanor be converted into a felony charge of animal cruelty instead of the misdemeanor or attend a rally for “Justice for Elsa” on January 6 in SLC.

  • Carol kramb

    The laws need to change not just for this person responsible for Elsa but for all. This is a horrific crime and should be a felony. The only two things in this world that need our help are animals and children. We are here to take care of them and be their voice. We need Justice for Elsa.

  • Jan Dykema

    again the court of the internet runs amok. The person has not even been found guilty and you alreday have him firred from his job and vilified acorss the wolrd. This is a great example of boutique altruism
    Boutique altruism :Giving the appearance of of diintertested and selfless concern for the well being of others through trendy low effort activities effort activites .
    such as postings like those above

    • Susan Rudnicki

      Yes, and folks like you and Mr Kirby really don’t like reprehensible behavior of this sort exposed, eh? Let us all inhabit a morally relativistic universe that suits our selfish principles— wouldn’t want to make Mr Barrett and his supporters uncomfortable, now would we??
      But we will hear a long dissertation from the Christian folk about morality when it suits the purposes. How about I send one of my own here for y’all to consider—
      “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who deal likewise with their fellow men” St Francis of Assisi

  • Thomas Kirby

    We need for these “animal advocates” to find another hobby and leave people alone. They want to punish people for things like this and that makes them a danger to themselves and others. The entire idea of trying to improve human behavior by punishing people has caused far more problems than it solves.

  • Eric Mills

    Here’s hoping there’ll also be a big push on the February 6 Lobby Day for Animals for legislation banning the brutal “sport” of “horse roping” and “horse tripping,” as was practiced at a recent competition at the Box Elder Fairgrounds.

  • Jimmy Jones

    I have zero respect for someone that would starve a horse like this. I find it equally disturbing that they made this horse suffer for 17 days. It’s obvious from the pictures and video there was no way this horse would live. The humane thing would have been to put it down. A horrible story all the way around.

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