UPDATE: Huntsville horse owner pleads guilty after city confiscates animals

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) —  UPDATE: The Huntsville woman who claimed animal service workers had been harassing her over the treatment of her city-dwelling herd of horses has pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charge and turned over her remaining five horses.

Helen Sockwell appeared before a Huntsville city municipal judge earlier this month.  She was given probation.

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Helen Sockwell has been around horses since she was born, but that could be changing.

Sockwell is accused of not taking care of horses on her property in south Huntsville. The back and forth between Sockwell and workers at the Huntsville Animal Services has been a four-year battle.

Sockwell claims those officers and their boss Dr. Karen Sheppard are harassing her.

Helen Sockwell says the city is harassing her over her horses. (WHNT, Matt Kroschel)

Helen Sockwell says the city is harassing her over her horses. (WHNT, Matt Kroschel)

“Sometimes three to four times a day officers are coming by here bothering us,” Sockwell told WHNT News 19 Monday afternoon. “They are harassing me and I have not done anything wrong,” she added.

Huntsville Animal Services director Karen Sheppard said her department’s actions are based solely on the best interest of the animals.

“We wouldn’t be there if there was not a problem it is that simple and straight forward,” Sheppard says.

At one point Sockwell had dozens of horses on her property, but over the last few years, Huntsville Animal Services workers have convinced her to sell or give away most of them.

A recent injury that allegedly went untreated sent Animal Services workers  into Sockwell’s pasture to take the horse into temporary protective custody. The horse’s wounds are being treated while both sides wait for a municipal judge to hear the case.

This is one of the horses taken into protective custody by the city.

This is one of the horses taken into protective custody by the city.

If you would like to report alleged animal abuse to Huntsville Animal Services CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

41 comments

  • Helen Sockwell

    Ms Sheppard & her friend caused the injury by requesting I switch horses in pastures, so 1 horse injured another. Then, no vet I called would get in the middle of it & see my horse because word got around . She’s spent thousands of taxpayer $$$ to get my horses in the hands of her friends, that’s what this is about. Why is there no over site on the pound’s 1.75Million $ budget?

      • Helen Sockwell

        Well it was. He was in ideal shape before we shifted the other horse to this pasture to facilitate ms Sheppard & friend from picking up the last 2 she bought. Sorry, are u a vet whos seen this horse?

      • pchunter4

        Your horse attacks your horse= your problem. For you to let it sit for a week just because you don’t want to pay for it is absolutely sickening and disguising behavior. Any normal person would have gotten the animal help first then dealt with the money later.

      • Helen Sockwell

        I called 4 vets & none would come. 1 told a mutual friend he didn’t want 2 get in the middle of it so it might seem that word got around. I did tell ms Shepard if she wud send a vet I’d pay for it, so that’s a non-point. U seem just critical & embittered over something. Hope u get help.

  • Harry Martin

    I’ve met Ms. Sockwell and all of this is just not true! She loves horses and would not harm a one.

    • free, plus tax

      if she is such a horse/animal lover, how did this get started? something brought animal control out there; did ms sockwell call them, or a concerned citizen?

      • Helen Sockwell

        It turns out that anybody can file an ANNONYMOUS complaint on anyone ! If your dog turns over his water in the back yard, if they are mad at you because your daughter got in a fight with theirs at school, if they don’t like your rose bushes, they can call the pound on you & start the process of making your life miserable. In my case, the neighborhood has grown up around my horses, on my family fa that’s been operating since 1935

      • Helen Sockwell

        This particular series of harassment started when she wanted me to GIVE 8 of my horses to her friend, Barbara Fisk., back in March. Since I didn’t just jump at that, she’s utilized her vast budget & army of pound people t harass me & my mother on a daily basis at tax-payer expense.

      • pchunter4

        She will not answer the question as to the condition of the horses before animal services got involved. That speaks for itself. I don’t think she cares about the horses.

    • Morgan

      She may love horses, but that does not mean she can rightfully care for one. I love elephants… does that mean I have the financial needs and knowledge base to properly care for one… no.
      Kudos to Dr. Sheppard for standing up for these animals, thank you for all that you do!

      • Helen Sockwell

        I have a. Vet certificate that says my horses were in ideal condition before this one was injured, which happened due to the actions of ms Sheppard & her friend who was buying some. Anyone who has seen my horses or knows about them over the last 54 years knows they are always provided for.

  • Carolyn Cunningham

    If Ms. Sockwell “loved” her horses, then the problem on the horse pictured would not look like it does.

    • Helen Sockwell

      Any animal, child or adult can be injured at any time. This guy was in ideal health until ms Sheppard & her friend requested I switch horses in pastures & they fought. I called 4 vets until 1 told a friend he had a conflict of interest between the pound & myself. I asked ms Sheppard if she could get a vet out here ($150), or she could have called in some anti-bionics & I would have picked them up. Instead she sent 5 pound vehicles w accompanying personnel & a cop car at who-knows-how-much $$$ & confiscated my horse .

  • Ashley

    Dr. Sheppard is one of the most admired and respected people in this City. And no offense Ms. Sockwell, but you do not look physically able to take proper care of these animals. Your heart may be in the right place, and you may indeed love each and every animal….. but please take advice of a trained professional and let the horses go to somewhere better suited.

  • Helen Sockwell

    As I said before pchunter4, my horses have a vet statement that says they are in ideal condition. But u know nothing of facts , the use of city vehicles, position, & resources for private friends, the waste of tax $$$, the abuse of power, the total lack of judgement & common sense while ignoring real animal issues like coyotes

      • Helen Sockwell

        This 1 was for the injury. Here’s how it happened : a friend of ms Sheppard bought 5 horses. To move the first 2 they borrowed a trailer. To move #3, An Control moved him w the city truck & trailer. For 4&5, her friend asked to move the 2 horses she was getting into 1 pasture. To do this, I led 1 horse to another pasture while ms Sheppard led the horse in that pasture back to the 1st field. Ms Sheppard then put the city An Control truck & trailer in there for several days, eventually loading them & driving them to their destination . Meanwhile, the horse we led out to facilitate this attacked the guy in the picture.

  • DOW

    For me I would like to know who cared for the horses out in the wild? Who payed the doctor bills of those? Do we have people out looking for anyone they can pin that on. My point is her horses are in a fence kept from wild animals that could eat them. If they were running wild they would have no protection. If she didn’t feed and water them being enclosed I would see that as a problem. There is a person in our neighborhood that walks for miles a day just to see who and what he could drum up to cause trouble. He called on a woman that keeps her horses up so well she even goes out and cleans up poop from them everyday. Some people have no life and they want to destroy others. Don’t give in stand up for what’s right. Don’t let them push you around or they will keep doing so until they take all of your horses. Then they will move on to the next person they want to take advantage of.

    • Helen Sockwell

      Yes, it’s govt at its most intrusive. I had 2 dozen, actually, & here’s where they are now: 6 I gave to Sheppard friend Barbara Fisk a couple of years ago to get An Control off my back. 4 they coercerced out of me due to “complaints”. 2 I gave to a friend to avoid them getting them. They and 4 more were confiscated amid half a dozen city an control vehicles & 2 cop cars when I didn’t give the 8 to Barbara Fisk in March. In the process, abortions occurred in 2 if my mares. Ms Sheppard finally brought a friend who offered a little bit of $ for 5 so I had to sell them at a loss. Then they confiscated the 1 in the report that was injured due to dividing up off the 5 sold. So I’m down to 4 1/2 on the 15 acres left. I must sell the ones they confiscated by court-time. I have not received all the discovery documents I requested, btw, like records if all their visits, records of the complaints, all lab reports… Also, ms Sheppard told me she specialized in small animals, not horses .

      • pchunter4

        From what I have seen they can’t take a animal as long as it has food and water. Only if it is in bad shape and you don’t get medical help for it. So something seems a little fishy about all this. They wouldn’t have been able to take them if they were fine. Am I missing something? What condition were the horses in? Before animal services got involved in the first place.

  • DOW

    The horses look pretty fat to me I don’t see why they would go after someone just because one got injured. I would lawyer up soon. Don’t let them take your life away. If you let them run over you they will take all your horses.

    • pchunter4

      It states “At one point Sockwell had dozens of horses on her property, but over the last few years, Huntsville Animal Services workers have convinced her to sell or give away most of them.” She doesn’t say why they were taken before this one that is injured.

    • Helen Sockwell

      Thank you , DOW. I’m apparently not the only 1 from what I’ve heard. As a life-long tax-paying citizen of HSV, I can’t help but wonder how this dept got so much $ ( 1.75M) with no apparent oversight so they can run round picking on Sr Citizens like me. It would seem that there’d be so many more pressing ways to spend OUR $ !!

  • pebner

    I think what some of the people commenting are missing is that the story that aired did not give Ms. Sockwell’s reasons she believes she is being harassed, so they must be read in this section. In this day and age of possible government over-reach we need to be aware, as citizens, that these abuses do occur. Which government sector does over-see Animal Control? Who supervises their actions? And, if their actions caused this horse to be injured shouldn’t they have to supply the veterinarian care to resolve the issue?

    • Helen Sockwell

      So far, it seems that there is no oversight or supervision over ms Sheppard, that she is the sole authority over the admin of $1.75M in our tax $$, including a deep bench of HSV CITY personnel, vehicles, facilities. That’s what I’ve tried to say, the horse was injured in the process of a horse sale to 1 of ms Sheppard’s friends, & with her full participation & knowledge. The campaign of harassment , daily surveillance, tag-teaming, discrimination , ect. Began this year in March, & continues to this day, 5 days after I refused to GIVE 8 of my mares & foals to ms Sheppard’s chosen friend, Barbara Fisk. So she arranged a catch-22 where she could confiscate all the youngsters & a couple of mares. She is the only “authority” & personally chose he ones she wanted. These happened to be the same ones she begged me to give to Barbara last year AFTER I’d already GIVEN HER 6 OTHERS! It goes on & on, tho, so I have to wonder what politics may be an undercurrent here. Is it because Grissom is being built next door & certain people want to run us off to guarantee the land is more valuable, hmmmm ?

  • pchunter4

    Again what condition were the horses in before animal services got involved in the first place? You stated you had dozens of horses, some pregnant and you only have 15 acres. Something doesn’t sound right about all this.

    • Helen Sockwell

      As I’ve said several times, when I called multiple vets, they didn’t want 2 b in a Conflict of Interest between me & the pound, since the pound pays them to do some some services. I have pictures & eye-witness accounts from professional horsemen, but the 1 vet-statement I do have states they are in ideal condition . But some people r going to believe what they want anyway even tho they’ve never seen them. It’s like rape, the victim is accused of doing something to bring it on herself.

    • Helen Sockwell

      For the last time pchunter4, I’ll attempt to clarify this. I started out with 20A + 4A in a diff location for 24 horses. City law allows approx 3 1/2 horses @ acre. 5A were divided off for development, which is the 15A , not counting the other location. But I reduced my herd by 6 at that time. Now, the vets, since they receive $$$ from the pound for various services, reportedly believe themselves in a Conflict-of-Intetest situation & will not get in the middle of it by coming out to see my horses . However, since I paid for Coggins tests & shots for the 5 that were recently sold, I did manage to get a vet statement on ALL MY HORSES WHICH STATES THEY ARE IN IDEAL CONDITION .

      • pchunter4

        For the fourth time I ask you. What condition were the horses, back when you had 24, before animal services got involved? I don’t care about the the certificate from the vet recently. That certificate doesn’t matter because animal services was already involved.

  • Paul

    Ms. Sheppard please fight the government with everything you have on this. Things are getting way out of control. This is too close to home.

  • pchunter4

    The fact no Vet would come treat your seriously injured horse reflects poorly on you not animal services. If you had a Vet giving proper care to 24 horses, some which you were breeding, you would have a good relationship with that animal clinic. That Vet would have stood by you because he can not make money vetting horses if you do not have any.

    So if you were not getting your horses proper regular medical care and breeding them. I’m sorry but you are a backyard breeder no matter what the bloodlines are.

    Now you had 24 horses. The horse market is down. Backyard bred horses are worth next to nothing with no medical care and you won’t comment on their condition. So they must have been in bad shape.

    Dr. Sheppard was probably trying to do you a favor by taking some of the horses. I’m sure getting them the proper medical care and conditioning cost more than they were worth. So that means you were most likely hording animals you could not care for.

    Which means they were being neglected. I’m not saying you area bad person but your comments are not adding up. It looks like you need to face the truth of the matter. If you loved your horses you would be happy to let them go to homes that can take care of them and thank Dr. Sheppard for her help not bash her publicly.
    You say you lost money, is that all you see. The well being of your pets should be worth more than money. Would you rather animals die on your property just so you can hold on to them or because someone won’t give you enough money for them?
    You brought this to the public and you are getting asked questions you will not answer. There must be a reason for your refusal to answer and for everything that is happening to you. Think about that for a minute.

Comments are closed.


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