Livestock running loose a big problem in Warren County

Published 12:03 am Saturday, August 11, 2012

When 65-year-old Julia Lee Dunbar struck a horse with her car on the way to work two years ago, the wreck nearly claimed her life.

“I don’t really know if I hit the horse, or the horse hit me,” Dunbar said.

She was on her way to work at River Region Hospital when she struck the half-ton animal about 5:30 a.m. July 19, 2010 in the 1200 block of Standard Hill Road. The horse was killed in the wreck.

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Loose livestock, especially horses, on Warren County’s roadways is a common problem officials with the Vicksburg Warren Humane Society and law enforcement authorities said.

Humane Society Director Georgia Lynn said her employees and sheriff’s deputies often spend hours or days trying to locate the owners of loose livestock.

“The number of horses that get out in this county is ridiculous,” she said.

Dunbar has no recollection of her crash. She suffered head injuries and was in a coma for a week at University Medical Center in Jackson. She stayed in the hospital another week before she went home. The effects of the crash are still with her more than two years later.

“I’ll take this to my grave. My left hand won’t shut and my fingers won’t bend. The left side of my face and body is numb,” she said. “I’ll never be well again in my life. That side hurts every day of my life. I just pray and thank God and go on.”

Neighbors saw the wreckage and called 911.

“If the people that saw me that morning didn’t come out on their porch I might have died,” she said.

If a horse escapes at night, the society charges $100 per animal to rescue them, Lynn said.

To aid in locating owners, Lynn has proposed keeping logs of all county livestock, but the idea has been met with much resistance, shes said.

Horses belonging to the owner of the animal involved in Dunbar’s wreck had escaped at least four times in 2010, according to 911 dispatch logs. Deputies spent an average of about 90 minutes corralling the horse.

“Loose livestock calls, unfortunately are a time-consuming reality of any law enforcement agency that works rural areas,” Sheriff Martin Pace said. “In the overwhelming majority of cases, the owner is located and they are able to get the livestock back in the enclosure.”

Horses tend to escape when fences are breached because of fallen limbs or heavy wind or when they have run out of fresh grass in an enclosed area, Lynn said.

“It’s up to the owner of the livestock to check the fences on a regular basis,” Lynn said.

Calls to the humane society about horses are as frequent as calls about dogs, but space is limited for equines until a new barn if finished, Lynn said. Construction on the bar is set to begin Aug. 15.

Owners of livestock can also be held liable for any damages caused by escaped animals, Lynn said.

The owners of the horse in Dunbar’s wreck had no insurance on the animal and have not offered to help her pay any medical bills, she said.

“I don’t understand why some people have to have insurance on everything and some people don’t have to have insurance on some things. That horse almost killed me,” she said.