An Elbert County couple sentenced in November for animal cruelty has been charged with abuse after a llama in their care was found dead recently. The couple had more than 65 animals in their care, resulting in a reported animal hoarding situation that the sheriff’s office aims to stop.
Christine O’Rourke, 54, and David Stantoine, 58, were cited for the second time in five months on Feb. 15, following a report of a dead llama on the couple’s Elbert property. In the first case against them, investigators retrieved the carcasses of a dog and a cat.
The couple face 19 counts of felony animal abuse for cruelty to animals.
In November 2012, the couple pleaded guilty to 20 counts of misdemeanor animal abuse when authorities seized 50 animals in their care. They were sentenced to 24 months of unsupervised probation, restitution, and unannounced inspections of the remaining animals on the property.
When authorities received word about the dead llama, deputies allegedly found O’Rourke and Stantoine in violation of their plea agreement. Investigators seized 15 animals in various stages of neglect and euthanized two goats on the spot.
With the help of the Colorado Bureau of Animal Protection, Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, Littleton Large Animal Clinic and Dumb Friends League, the sheriff’s office seized two miniature horses, three donkeys, eight horses, a puppy and a kitten.
Authorities left an unknown number of animals in the couple’s care, said Amie Cavarra, public relations manager, Colorado Humane Society & SPCA. O’Rourke and Stantoine own all of the animals involved in the investigations; none is being boarded by the couple, Cavarra said.
“They still have a variety of animals,” Cavarra said. “They are all across the board, lots of different kinds of animals.”
According to the sheriff’s office, the equines had formerly shown signs of improvement but were exhibiting signs of distress and dehydration, with depleting body conditions. They were reportedly kept in a hazardous environment without access to water or food.
“(O’Rourke and Stantoine) are animal hoarders,” said Elbert County Sheriff Shayne Heap. “This situation continues to be disappointing. We have visited the property numerous times and were very discouraged to see several animals deteriorating. It quickly became clear that more animals needed removed from the property.”
The sheriff’s office estimates the couple remains in possession of 15 dogs and cats and an unknown number of goats. Sheriff’s officials and the SPCA have asked the district attorney to remove all animals from the couple’s care and ensure they are not allowed to obtain any new animals, said Deputy Kevin Pope.
Animals seized from Elbert couple
July 2012 — Eight horses, two alpacas, 14 dogs, 19 house birds, a potbellied pig, two domestic rabbits, four house cats and the carcasses of one cat and one dog.
February 2013 — Two miniature horses, three donkeys, eight horses, a puppy, a kitten, a dead llama and two euthanized goats.
Total live animals seized: 65
Total animal carcasses removed: 5