Charges filed against owner of 10 horses found dead in Magna

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MAGNA, Utah -- The owner of 10 horses found dead in a Magna pasture this July was criminally charged Thursday in connection with their deaths. The Utah Veterinary Lab ruled the cause of death as dehydration.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill filed 11 counts of cruelty to an animal against Shamus Josef Haws. They are Class C misdemeanors. Ten of the horses died but the eleventh survived.

Gill told FOX 13 News his staff looked at two major factors when determining these charges; the type of animal and the intent. Based on information surrounding those two factors, Gill said felony charges were not warranted.

In Utah, horses are considered property and with no evidence of intentional harm, Gill told FOX 13 News the misdemeanor charges filed against Haws are appropriate in this case.

“This is not that anybody found any evidence of any intentional wrongdoing or torturing or harming these animals," Gill said. "This was an accident, but it is an accident that the law says you have a responsibility for."

Gill said there were pipes and a hose to bring water to the horses, but there was a kink in the line. It’s believed the horses went days without water.

Gill said, “Depending on the experts that you have, a healthy horse would have to go almost five days without water before dehydration really occurs. A sick or weakened horse maybe 48 hours.”

Resident Dennis Morgan found the dead and dying horses in July. He told FOX 13 News he smelled what he described as “death” and found the horses on the other side of his backyard.

“It's actually sickening. I get a little emotional because we saw them die," Morgan said.

Carl Arky with the Humane Society of Utah told FOX 13 News Thursday: “It's really very unfortunate. It's unfortunate for him, more unfortunate obviously for the horses.”

Arky said he hopes these charges will send a clear message to all animal owners, “By the prosecutor bringing charges it sends a message, one would hope, and maybe people will be a little bit more careful, have a little bit more diligence and make sure that everything is going alright with their animals.”

FOX 13 News was able to get a hold of Haws on the phone Thursday night. He didn’t know he’d been charged and said he didn’t have anything to say at this point. Haws could face up to 90 days in jail and up to a $750 fine for each of the eleven animal cruelty counts.


  • Trevor

    This guy should definitely be charged. You have to go days without watering a horse to have it die on you. I thought this whole thing was ridiculous to begin with. I’m glad charges are being filed, even though they are are misdemeanors. I know horses are just a commodity here but they should still be treated with respect.


    He could water the horses all we wants, it’s up to the horse to DRINK the water.
    Sounds like a suicide-pact to me…
    Maybe the horses were just depressed BAHAHAHAH
    they are animals for hell’s sake.

    • Zanetta Smith

      And how do you figure that??? Did you even read, or watch the video? This dumb arse obviously doesn’t even check on his horses. Dude, the hose was kinked and the horses WEREN’T getting water!!! They went without, for over 5 days! Even if they were on an automatic watering system, the troughs would have to be cleaned of the algae! Do you even have animals that depend on you? C’MON!!!!

  • The Grouch

    “FOX 13 News was able to get a hold of Haws on the phone…”

    How about “FOX 13 News was able to contact Haws by telephone…”

    Got editor, maybe?

  • Kinsy

    This guy was a trainer? From his website – Shamus Haws is not “just another” horseman/clinician. Shamus’ knowledge of horses is exceptional and he is gifted with communication and teaching skills reaching far beyond the average and into the handful of “top professional” horsemen today. He has figured out what he does best and is doing it: helping people on a very personal level about the incredible journey that can lead to a partnership between horse and rider; developing an effortless, soft connection, the thoughts of the horse and rider becoming one and ultimately leading to directing the horses mind & feet. Shamus is in touch with the internal, invisible intent a true horseman must have which initiates the connection between horse and human before any external moves are evident. With this much “experience” he should be charged max penalty.

  • Ed Mai

    Common sense would tell a person to check the water daily. A horse will gaunt up when it hasn’t had water, a horseman with a brain would see this.

  • TBJ

    So sad to see this kind of negative story towards this great man. I know him, His amazing family & have seen the amazing care he gives his horses, which are like family to him. The whole story has not been told here!! Not even a little bit. The media has failed to report the numerous counts of sabotage that was done here. Did they report that someone else had been hired to take care of the watering for this particular pasture, Did they mention that that the fence to the pasture had been freshly cut and the hoses kinked in such a way that only someone that was up to know good would be able to do. Did they mention that there was evidence that there had been trespasser on this property in recent days. NOPE! All of this evidence is evidence that the police department found & has photos of. The owner checked on these horse 2 days prior to this tragic event & the horses were fine. All standing under a shade tree, not at the trough as if they were thirsty. Nor did any die by the trough……how ironic! The media reports also failed to mention that there are many poisons that are VERY HARD to detect in lab reports. Wait….the labs didnt even test for that. HMMMM!! Ask any rancher, trainer or anyone who knows anything about the way livestock are. If they are thirsty, they will be at the trough. Sounds like someone out to get the owner…maybe over jealousy because of his great success & what a great man he is & how well he takes care of his horses & those around him. People need to stop being so quick to judge, when they have absolutely no idea the facts or the pain & suffering these folks are going through after losing a large part of their family that day. This man is being crucified when he was took the proper precautions to have solid water arrangements mage & in checking on them regularly like any other large ranch would do. These charges against him are ridiculous. Sim Gill is a piece of work!

    • HarleyMaiden

      So if he checked the horses 2 days prior to their death, then why did they die of dehydration? Seems like they went without water for a lot longer in major summer heat….(did he give them water 2 days before??)

    • Zanetta Smith

      If he hired someone to look after the watering, it doesn’t say much about his management skills! Him being an owner of any animal, he has an obligation to make sure they are cared for them! Peering into a pasture isn’t checking on them. Horses are very unpredictable and can get into situations that can cause self injury. You can look into a pasture, see your horse with it’s weight shifted off from his hind leg on his opposite side, but if you don’t walk your arse out to check him over, he could die from a gash on his leg! If bad enough, you could go out two hours later, only to find your horse on the ground, dying or dead!!!! As for the horses standing under the shade tree, two days before and not by the trough, they do know that if there is nothing to get from it, then there’s no sense in going back. I’m sure they know the sound the filler makes when it’s running. They were probably on pins and needles waiting for it! Why would they bother to walk to it when they see humans? Humans don’t bring the water! He did not provide proper care and precautions for them…if he did, they’d still be alive!!!! Even if he didn’t want to check on the horses, he should have at least did regular EVERYDAY checks on his equipment! If he was having problems with haters, he should have been that much more vigilant in their care!!!


    Sad to see an accident like this happen. I know Shamus personally, and have seen very few breeders that have such love and respect for their herd. As someone posted above ‘As a horse owner, one should check at least twice daily that the horses are ok’ – they obviously have no idea the massive, unconnected span of land that this horse herd encompasses. Horses on ANY ranch across the US are not checked on every day, unless it’s foaling season. It’s just physically impossible. As stated in the article by the DISTRICT ATTORNEY – “It was an accident.” This man did not intentionally dehydrate these horses, it was an accident that I’m sure devastated the Haws family. This man has served his local horse community AND the UT state horse community very well. Have a little respect for a good man who made one error.

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