Dana Thomas Kahler was found guilty Wednesday of 12 misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty stemming from the discovery of emaciated horses on a ranch in Clovis in December 2011.
Judge Edward Sarkisian Jr. ruled in Fresno County Superior Court that Kahler, 61, was negligent in caring for his horses, but his conduct wasn't gross enough for him to be convicted of felony charges. Sarkisian sentenced Kahler to two years of probation and ordered him to serve 150 hours of community service.
In accepting his punishment, Kahler told Sarkisian: "I do take responsibility for my horses. But I relied on someone else to take care of them."
Kahler was arrested Dec. 20, 2011, after 12 of his horses were discovered emaciated on a ranch off Shepherd Avenue near Temperance Avenue in Clovis.
Prosecutors sought felony charges after one of the horses had to be euthanized.
Kahler, an insurance agent, later signed ownership of his horses over to the Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
In an unusual move, attorney James Homola, who represented Kahler, waived his client's right to a jury trial. Instead, he asked Sarkisian to evaluate the evidence.
In his ruling, Sarkisian said Kahler had leased property in Clovis for several years and had an agreement with another man to watch his horses.
There were 18 or 19 horses on the Clovis property, but only Kahler's horses were emaciated, the judge said. Therefore, the person who watched Kahler's horses "bears some responsibility," Sarkisian said, but is not criminally responsible because Kahler had a duty to give his animals water, food and shelter.
At the time of his arrest, Kahler was caring for his gravely ill father, who "needed his son's care and full attention" before he died, Sarkisian said in noting this evidence as a factor in giving Kahler a lesser punishment.
In addition, on the day of his arrest, Kahler arrived on the property in his pickup pulling a trailer filled with bales of hay, which Sarkisian also noted was a mitigating factor.
In convicting Kahler, Sarkisian said he should have told the caretaker of his horses that his father was ill and asked him for help.
"It was a tragic set of circumstances," Sarkisian said.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, email@example.com or @beecourts on Twitter.