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HORSE TRAINER PUNISHED; MAN GETS PROBATION, FINE IN ABUSE CASE.

Byline: Jesse Hiestand / Daily News Staff Writer

An equestrian trainer convicted of felony animal abuse was sentenced Tuesday to five years' probation, ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and develop nonviolent training methods, officials said.

Tom Valter of Santa Monica faced up to five years in state prison following his conviction in June on four felony counts of animal cruelty for abusing a horse named Zoolog at an Agoura stable in 1995.

Malibu Superior Court Judge Lawrence Mira, who heard the trial and rendered the verdict, rejected prison time in favor of rehabilitation.

``He basically ordered (Valter) to produce a training program to train horses without force - without whips or electronic devices,'' said Deputy District Attorney Ellen Aragon.

The defendant was ordered to return to court Oct. 14 to advise the judge of his progress in developing such a training system, Aragon said.

Before sentencing, Mira denied Valter's motion for a new trial and a motion to reduce the felony charges to misdemeanors. Such a reduction of charges is still possible if the defendant does well on probation, Aragon said.

On the other hand, the suspended prison sentence can still be imposed if he gets into further trouble.

Aragon said the lenient sentence was due in large part to the defendant having no prior criminal record.

Valter, who was acquitted on four other charges, including witness intimidation, was found guilty of using an electric prod and a whip with a tack or nail on its tip to train Zoolog for the equestrian event of dressage.

Testimony in the case lasted five weeks in Malibu Superior Court.

``I'm a little disappointed (Valter) wasn't ordered to pay more of a fine or do something that would have sent more of a deterrent message to other trainers,'' she said. ``But I think it's worth proving to the court and public that it is abusive to train a horse with a cattle prod. In that sense it was worth it.''

Valter no longer trains at C.T. Farms in Agoura, where the abuse occurred, she said. He now works at Paddock Riding Club in Los Angeles.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 20, 1997
Words:353
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