SALLISAW (KFSM)-- A horse trainer is facing three charges of felony animal cruelty after horses left in his care were found dead on his ranch near Sallisaw, according to the Sequoyah County Sheriff's Office.
Robert Howard Dimitt, 57, was arrested Monday (August 3) after Charlotte Northam tipped off the sheriff's office, Sheriff Ron Lockhart said. Northam is the caretaker of three horses that were owned by a retired surgeon, who lives in Kentucky.
Northam said she was coming to pick up the horses for a break from race training July 9 and on the way to the ranch she got a call saying one of the horses had died that morning.
"They asked us to come out here to check on this horse, and it had been dead for a couple of weeks," Lockhart said.
Northam said she could not believe what she found when she arrived at the ranch.
"All I know is, I was supposed to have three healthy horses under his care," she said. "And nothing but starved, mutilated feet and two horses dead and a million-dollar horse that should still be having her chance to run the track."
Northam said one horse had to be put down because of its injuries and the other, named Gold Digging Ashley, is fighting for its life. Gold Digging Ashley is the winningest horse in her division in the U.S., according to Northam.
"It is unbelievable," she said. "I have seen the horse run two times. She was phenomenal and all of that has been taken away."
Even if Gold Digging Ashley survives her racing career is over and she will face a life of antibiotics and rehabilitation, Northam said.
Lockhart said he will do all he can to make sure Dimitt is never allowed near a horse again.
"Mr. Dimitt is sitting in jail right now, and I hope that he will never train another horse," Lockhart said. "I can assure you, if there is anything going on with horses with Mr. Dimitt, I am going to be out here."
Lockhart said investigators found several horse carcasses on the ranch and veterinarians have to check on the other horses that are still alive. The sheriff's office has also contacted the owners of the animals. Lockhart said many were surprised to find out the horses they thought were being taken care of had actually been dead for months.
Northam said the owner of the three horses in this case is devastated and wants justice.
Dimitt was booked into the Sequoyah County Jail and bonded out the same day, according to Lockhart. His bond was set at $25,000. A court date for Dimitt has not yet been set.