Local doctor’s animal neglect conviction comes after years of issues

A brindle-colored Great Dane wearing a jacket was seen in Dr. Christy Horton's yard on Nov. 20.

Neighbors upriver hope this ends frequent problems with dogs

Nov. 21, 2022 — A doctor employed by PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Medical Center in Florence has been convicted of first-degree animal neglect. As a result, she was required to surrender all animals in her possession, but neighbors still have concerns as signs point to animals still on her property.

According to court documents, on Nov. 1, Dr. Christy Horton pleaded guilty in Eugene Municipal Court to one count of Animal Neglect in the 1st Degree.

Horton agreed to a plea deal with multiple other abuse charges being dropped.

As part of her plea, Horton will face one-year of probation which prohibits her from “owning, possessing, or having in her care, custody or control all animals of any genus for the duration of her probation.”

Though after her probation is up after a year Horton could legally own animals, her plea deal also states that she cannot own dogs for five years.

This is not Horton’s first run-in with law enforcement regarding her treatment of animals, as court records show that in July 2005, she was charged with Animal Cruelty in the 2nd Degree in King County, Wash.

Horton is believed to own two properties, one in Eugene and one just a few miles west of Mapleton.

How the charges that led to this conviction occurred is unclear, but local media mentions that they are the result of Horton’s care of three Great Danes at her property in Eugene. As a result of the conviction, she was required to surrender those canines and was required to surrender 11 horses at her property near Mapleton. Media reports say that some of those horses appear to be mistreated also, but there have not been new charges as of press deadlines.

Besides the obvious concern for the animals Horton did or does have in her possession, questions have arisen as to whether someone with a conviction for Animal Neglect in the 1st Degree is eligible for employment with PeaceHealth Medical Group. People online have also asked if a background check was conducted by the hospital and if so, why previous charges weren’t considered.

PeaceHealth declined an interview but gave the following statement:

“While PeaceHealth does not comment on the private legal matters of its staff, Dr. Horton is currently on leave from Peace Harbor Medical Center,” said a PeaceHealth spokesperson. “We hold all caregivers to the same high standards for ensuring the safety of our patients.”

As of press deadlines, Horton is listed on PeaceHealth’s official website as Hospitalist/Internal Medicine at the PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Medical Center.

Unfortunately, none of this current news is a surprise to some Mapleton residents, especially neighbors to Horton of nearly eight years, Vince and Amanda Hendricks-Davis.

The Hendricks-Davis’ have attempted to shed light on the situation, both through alerting local media, law enforcement and through social media, mainly in vain as far as Mr. Hendricks-Davis is concerned.

“We've had several incidents over the years with no response from law enforcement, so the neglect also falls on them in my eyes,” he said.

The Hendricks-Davis’ first run-in with Horton and her Great Danes came in 2016.

Amanda found a small lost dog on her property. Thinking it may be her neighbor’s, she put it in her car and drove the short distance to the doctor’s front door.

“I left the dog in my car while I walked up to the house,” said Amanda. “I was approached by several Great Danes barking and surrounding me, Christy Horton then stepped outside. I briefly explained to her I found a little Beagle dog at my house and had asked if it was hers. She said it was and made the comment, ‘You have some guts to just walk up here with my Great Danes out’.”

Next Amanda noticed dead cows on her neighbor’s property.

“I observed several dead cows time and time again,” she said. “After filing reports with Lane County Animal Control [Services] (LCAS) they finally gave her an ultimatum of taking the last live cow to auction or face a fine.”

It appears she did, in fact, give up that “last cow,” but it was not long before Horton got another cow and, in May 2017, Amanda looked over at Horton’s property and saw “the cow falling and stumbling in an attempt to escape the three Great Danes,” according to a statement she gave LCAS. She moved closer to the dogs and cow and observed “the three Great Danes tugging and pulling on various parts of the cow, who lay in the mud still alive but seriously fatigued.”

Videos shared by the Hendricks-Davis’ on Facebook at the time confirm her description of the gruesome event.

It appears no charges were ever filed because of this event.

As a result of the Hendricks-Davis’ sharing their concerns on social media, other former neighbors of Horton were prompted to share their own stories of run-ins with the doctor and her animals.

Prior to the Hendricks-Davis’, a women named Anna Hendrickson and her husband lived in the house next to Horton. Upon reading the 2017 posts on Facebook, they reported many run-ins with Horton and her dogs in the comments of one of Amanda’s posts.

“2/28/13, 4 dogs attacked my husband while she [Horton] watched,” commented Hendrickson. “He had a bite on his wrist, a deep scratch on his neck and torn hip-waiters. It would have been worse if our horse didn’t chase them off and he got away.”

She continued with another comment, this one undated.

“She [Horton] had four dead cows and was reported by the UPS driver,” wrote Hendrickson. “She let the Danes tear apart and eat one of the dead ones. Animal control said there was nothing wrong with her dogs eating her cow no matter how disgusting it was and that her vet said they died of natural causes. Her dogs attacked calves and nothing worse than hearing them bawl in the middle of the night.”

According to Hendrickson, even Horton was victim to her Great Danes’ attacks at times.

“8/10/13 we came home at 1 a.m. to find her quad in middle of her field and she was being dragged around by the big male and when my nephew offered to help, she asked if he had a gun to shoot him with,” said Hendrickson.

Siuslaw News obtained a copy of a letter dated Nov. 20, 2014, addressed to Ms. Horton from LCAS stating that they “received a call stating the dogs were off their property running lose through the neighborhood in the area of 10444 Highway 126 in Mapleton. It’s alleged the dogs were acting in an aggressive manner towards the complainant and her black Labrador Retriever.”

The letter goes on to mention to previous complaints LCAS had received regarding her dogs “acting in a similar manner” and references the previously mentioned incident on Feb. 28, 2013, and another on May 22, 2014.

The letter also states that “a citation will not be issued to you for the alleged offense however, the complainant is aware that should this type of situation continue to occur, they have the option to file a formal complaint up to six months after a witnessed violation.”

Another former neighbor of Horton’s, this one in Woodinville, Wash., told her story after stumbling on the Hendricks-Davis’ posts.

According to a comment Catherine Larson left, from 1999-2004 she lived next door to Horton. After a Christmas Eve 2003 fire, Horton seemed to disappear from her property, leaving her horses to fend for themselves.

“Afterwards, she [Horton] wasn't there at all,” recalled Larson. “My mom made several complaints to animal control before and after the house fire. One day, animal control came knocking on our door inquiring on the horses. One of the horses died from not being taken care of. That was when animal control finally got involved. That did a big investigation. I remember animal control, and law enforcement being lined up down the road. Just saw from reading the comments that she was charged criminally.”

This appears to be from where the 2005 charges stem.

According to reporting by NW Horse Report, “this resulted in Horton being a fugitive from justice for over a decade after a warrant was issued for her arrest, with numerous warrants being reissued until around 2016. The case event log shows it was eventually dismissed without prejudice, apparently to simply remove it from an active case log for King County Prosecutors.”

Even after all these interactions with different law enforcement and animal control agencies and her recent conviction, the problems may not be over. The Hendrick-Davis’ have shared videos with the Siuslaw News that appear to have audio of barking dogs on Horton’s property, on Nov. 10 and Nov. 13. There is no visible sign of the dogs in the videos, but the barking is clear.

Mr. Hendricks-Davis again contacted LCAS on Nov. 14 to report seeing a “brindle colored Great Dane wearing a dark colored jacket” in Horton’s yard.

On Nov. 15, he received an email response from Stacy Manning LCAS stating that they “have placed Christy Horton on our list of calls to respond to check on.”

On Nov. 20, Henricks-Davis confirmed that a brindle-colored Great Dane, wearing a jacket, was, again, in Horton’s yard. He was even able to get a clear picture.

Hendricks-Davis immediately reached out to LCAS with the picture of the dog.

On the morning of Nov. 21 Siuslaw News received a statement from Devon Ashbridge, Public Information Officer for Lane County: “Our animal welfare officers do intend to visit the property; however, I’m sure you can understand why we would be reluctant to publish advance notice of any visits. If people do have first-hand knowledge of possible violations on that property or any other in unincorporated Lane County, we encourage them to report directly to LCAS. We are not able to take action on second- or third-person reports.”

Siuslaw News also reached out to Horton. The doctor stated that she “has been advised not to speak with reporters about this.” Though she did state that the news had created “threats to her personal safety” and that “the conviction had nothing to do with my Mapleton property.”

It should be noted, after reviewing online reviews and speaking to former patients and coworkers of Horton, Siuslaw News could find no evidence of issues with her care of patients through her medical profession.