The new Highland County Humane Society officer has been charged over the past few months with six counts of allowing horses to run at large, with a warrant pending on the same charge, a spokesperson for Hillsboro Municipal Court confirmed Friday.
Kim Cooley was officially charged with “allowing animals to run at large” on April 27, May 2, Aug. 17, Dec. 13 and Dec. 16 of last year and currently has a warrant pending from Feb. 6 of this year on the same charge, according to court records.
She has been found guilty of the charge three times. She was found not guilty once, had one of the charges dismissed, and the Feb. 6 charge is pending.
Jim Wikstrom, president of the Highland County Humane Society Board of Directors, said the board was not aware of the charges until he was contacted by The Times-Gazette on Thursday. He said the board did not conduct a background check on Cooley before hiring her.
“I’m going to call her and tell her it’s unacceptable for us to have a humane officer who is getting cited like this,” Wikstrom said Friday. “I will get a hold of the board members and we will unanimously tell her that the problem does not happen anymore. Period.”
Cooley was appointed to the position on Jan. 4 of this year.
A resident of Sorg Road in Highland County, Cooley said Friday that the problem that was allowing her horses to stray beyond her property has been fixed. But she also said she was not aware of the Feb. 6 charge or the warrant that Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera said has been issued for her arrest.
She also said she believes the problem may stem from someone tampering with her property.
“I’ve been here for eight years and this never was a problem before,” Cooley said. “Things happen. I’ve tried to explain that to them. Nothing never happened before and then all of a sudden these things start to happen.”
However, Barrera said the problem has been ongoing for a few years.
“It’s just a constant thing,” the sheriff said. “We warned her, and warned her and warned her before we ever started writing citations. …It probably goes back to when Ron Ward was sheriff. We have to write citations because the neighbors said the horses are damaging their property.
Barrera added, “I’m not saying she doesn’t take care of her animals, by any means. But she doesn’t keep them on her property.”
Earlier this week, Cooley said she had volunteered at the Humane Society’s animal shelter on SR 124, east of Hillsboro. She said that she recently applied for a position on the board of directors, but when she was not named to the board, she was asked if she wanted to serve as the humane officer. She said she thought it was something she might be interested in and decided to accept the offer.
“She was a person known to the society. She had been at board meetings and expressed a desire to help,” Wikstrom said. “She has followed up on calls in a very prompt manner and we have been very pleased with her to this point.”
Originally from the Winchester area, Cooley said earlier this week that she was an elementary teacher in the North Adams School District for 16 or 17 years. She said she currently has a private vending business. She said Friday that she will stand by her character.
As the Highland County humane officer, Cooley is responsible for investigating reports of any type of animal in the county being mistreated or not properly cared for.
“Things have been going pretty good, but we have a bump in the road and we have to get it smoothed out to everybody’s satisfaction,” Wikstrom said.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.