Woman accused of starving horses, evading arrest

Owner had not fed animals for at least two weeks, officials say
Mar. 22, 2013 @ 07:52 AM

Ima’s ribs are starting to show. It had been Feb. 23 since the 2-year-old filly and Rosy, a 20-year-old gaited horse, had eaten from a roll of hay. Caldwell County Animal Control now has the horses and is nursing them back to health. Their owner, Teresa Hullette, sits in jail on drug and firearm charges, and also one count of abandonment of animals.

Hullette, 46, shares a patch of land off Hillwood Drive north of Lenoir with her sister, Melissa Ward. Both Hullette and Ward are horse owners. As Ward tells it, Hullette had been on the lam from police for the past two weeks, leaving the horses out to pasture. Animal control says Hullette neglected to feed or water the horses during that time. She was finally tracked down and arrested Monday by the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office. 

In addition to the abandonment charge, Hullette was jailed on charges of possession of drug paraphernalia, three counts of failure to appear in court, and possession of a firearm by a felon. Her prior felony conviction was in 1994 on a charge of obtaining property by false pretense.

Animal control picked up the horses up after Hullette’s arrest.

Five notices from animal control dating from March 7 to notify Hullette about the health of the horses still hang from the back door of her house on Hillwood Drive. A fence post lies broken where Hullette's horses had crashed the fence to try to get to food in Ward’s neighboring pasture. She and another neighbor had given the two horses what little hay and alfalfa cubes they could spare so the horses wouldn’t starve to death.

According to the N.C. Division of Adult Correction, Hullette has been convicted previously of charges including assault, car theft, forgery and receiving stolen goods.

Ward said she has called animal control at least a dozen times in the past six years. Two other horses, Bill and Rea, had to be given away because Hullette neglected them, Ward said.

“She wouldn’t feed them but depended on others to bring hay,” Ward said.

Shannon Foster, a field supervisor for animal control, examined the two horses once they were seized. Ima was in worse shape than Rosy.

“On a scale of one to 10, with one being skinny and 10 being fat, Ima is a three,” Foster said. “She is underweight. We are giving them plenty of hay.”

Animal rescue organizations have been called in hopes of finding someone to adopt the two horses. For now, Ward is happy Hullette is in jail and the horses are being fed.

“Animal control went above and beyond trying to care for these animals,” Ward said. “They would be out here at night, on weekends, and in the rain. They did more than anybody expected them to for these animals.”