Woman charged with animal cruelty after horses found dead, starving

MILLINGTON, Tenn. — A Millington woman is charged with felony animal cruelty, accused of starving at least three horses to death and neglecting several more.

Courtney Simpson

Courtney Simpson, 35, is facing one count of animal cruelty and three counts of aggravated animal cruelty stemming from an investigation last month by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA).

On her Epperson Mill Road property, investigators found three starving horses — two in such bad shape they were barely alive, according to court documents.

A fourth horse was found frozen to death in a pond.

Photos show horses so skinny you can see their spines and rib cages.

A photo from Courtney Simpson's property shows a horse with its ribs and spine showing.

"What's going on out there's not right," said Ricky Pike of Pike's Gravedigging Service. "The yard's all trashed up, the horses didn't have any hay, they didn't care about it having water apparently."

Arrest records show the horses were so desperate for food, they were stripping bark right from tree branches.

"If you can't feed them, give them away," Pike said.

Pike said he was called to Simpson's home to pull the dead horse from the pond when he noticed one of the other emaciated horses.

"It was skinny as a rail," he said. "And I said, 'I don't see any hay in this field.' And she said, 'Well, my husband took a pay cut and we haven't been able to afford to buy feed for them.'"

Days later, another one of the starving horses was dead. Investigators say Simpson claimed it "had to be put down" after collapsing.

The last starving horse was given away that same week, but it was too late — it had to be euthanized by a veterinarian the next day.

It wasn't long before word got around that Simpson had been arrested.

"I was like, 'Well, justice is going to be taken care of for the horses,'" Pike said.

Pike said the TDA told him investigators also found a starved, dead pig on the property. The only surviving horse is now recovering at a new home.

WREG tried to get Simpson's side of the story Saturday, but no one answered the door at her home.

She makes her first court appearance Monday morning.

It's unclear if her husband will face any charges.