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Community calls for tough horse theft penalties

(Photo credit: WLOS)

HAYWOOD COUNTY, N.C. -- The horse community in Haywood County is beginning a letter-writing campaign calling for stiff penalties for horse theft.

This comes after two horses were stolen in Waynesville last month. Social media helped track them down in Tennessee.

Two people arrested made their first court appearance on Wednesday. Nancy McClellan and Dustin Hoglen both face two counts of felony larceny of a horse. They were appointed attorneys and the case was continued.

The stolen horses are Bella and her miniature companion Romeo. Both are doing much better after their ordeal recovering at the Dixie Way Appaloosa Ranch in Canton, including likely not having the right kind of hay, being separated, and driven to a horse auction near Knoxville. Given the stress. Operator Janet Leatherwood says they’re doing much better.

But the horse community is stressed too, aware of other recent thefts in South Carolina and Hendersonville. They say horse owners are worried.

“Can I put up cameras? Can I put up signals that somebody's coming onto my property? Can I microchip them? What can I do,” asks Karen Owens, who runs Haywood County's only horse rescue, Star Ranch.

She's received letters, one from a mother who says her 4-year-old daughter won't sleep at night worried about her horse being stolen.

Owens is writing letters, too, to the District Attorney's Office calling for stiff penalties, like jail time, in this case to send a strong deterrent message.

“It's a felony, so it should be jail time,” Owens said. She looks for a strong message to be sent by the District Attorney’s Office. “He said our office is full of animal lovers. And we are taking this case very seriously."

McClellan and Hoglen are scheduled for court on January 25.

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