CANTON, Ohio — A Mansfield man was arrested Jan. 14, after he admitted to setting more than a dozen race horses loose from the Stark County Fairgrounds, along Wertz Avenue.
Jon Ford, 29, was charged with disrupting public service, possession of drugs, breaking and entering, and inducing panic. He was found to have two types of marijuana on him at the time, according to the Canton Police report.
One horse ventured onto Meyers Lake, which was partially frozen, and drowned while first responders attempted a rescue effort.
Thirteen other horses were successfully returned to the barns, but not before running through neighborhood yards and roadways. All available police units, some fire units and multiple volunteers responded to the area, to keep the horses away from main roads.
The horses were reported loose at about 5:30 a.m., by concerned citizens.
Canton Police Lt. Dennis Garren said first responders worked to corral the horses, in an effort to keep them away from major roadways and give the owners time to arrive. He said off-duty officers knowledgeable about horses were also called, and the officers worked together to assist the owners.
Canton Township Fire Chief Chris Smith said his department got a call about a dog in the icy waters of Meyers Lake, but it turned out to be a male horse. He said emergency responders deployed their rescue boats and were about halfway to the horse, before its body gave out and it slipped under the water.
According to Smith, the horse was about 150-200 yards from the shore, and rescuers had to break up the ice on their way to the horse. He said the horse could have been in the water for as long as two hours, long before the emergency phone call was made.
“We treat those recoveries and rescues just as if it were a person,” Smith said. “We’re going to do everything in our power to execute a rescue.”
Garren said the county prosecutor will review the charges, and that more could be added, including animal cruelty, if the prosecutor decides it is warranted.
According to a Facebook post by the fair, the horses were being observed and checked by their owners, trainers and a veterinarian.
“The Stark County Fair Board expresses our deepest sympathies to the owner of the horse and all who have been effected by this tragic incident,” according to the post.
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