KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. -- A horse adopted by Jon Stewart and his wife reported to have been shot more than 100 times by a paintball gun was instead used as a canvas for children's finger-painting parties, the former owner of the horse said.
Doreen Weston said the horse was never injured. Her comments came on the same day the former "Daily Show" host's wife, Tracey, officially adopted the white mare named Lily at a facility in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. The Stewarts partnered with Farm Sanctuary last year to open an animal sanctuary at their farm in Middletown, New Jersey.
Lily was found seemingly abandoned at an auction stable in New Holland, Pennsylvania, in March. Police said she was covered in paint and extremely sore to the touch. The abused horse tale soon became a cause celebre.
Tracey Stewart said the problem is that too many people think animals are disposable.
Phillip Price, of East Providence, Rhode Island, was convicted Friday in New Holland of animal cruelty and other charges related to transporting a horse in poor condition. Price is also on probation in Rhode Island after pleading no contest to animal cruelty in July, according to court records.
Weston, who owns Smoke Hollow Farm in Pittstown, New Jersey, said the horse is about 35 years old and she acquired it in late 1990s. She said she wanted the horse euthanized because its quality of life was so poor, due to deteriorating eyesight and bad teeth, and contacted Price to take the horse in February. She said she assumed he would euthanize the animal, but didn't explicitly tell him to.
She contends the mare loved the kids' attention during the finger-painting sessions, saying it was "like a massage."
"I consider myself a respectable horse person and animal lover," Weston said. "There is always an issue about what to do with older animals. When the animal is past living a quality life, you should stop its suffering."
Susan Martin, director of the Lancaster County SPCA in Pennsylvania, said Wednesday she doesn't find Weston credible, and said she should have come forward weeks ago. Weston said she let officials know early on of the finger-painting, but they let the paintball story persist.
Martin said she's not exactly certain where the paintball injuries theory originated, but she said it made sense because the animal flinched every time it was touched and was splattered with paint.
"The bottom line is her business is being affected by this and that is what she cares about," Martin said.
Weston supplied the AP with photos of a February finger-painting party with a stained horse that looks like Lily, as well as emails between her and her veterinarian about a treatment plan for the horse's eye issues.
After she was found at the New Holland stables, Lily was cared for by Penn Vet's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square.
"Regardless of where the paint on her coat originated, our assessment that she was malnourished and in need of emergency intensive eye care drove our treatment plan," Dr. Rose Nolen-Walston, of the New Bolton Center, said.
Her right eye had to be removed.
Tracey Stewart said she's struck by how many people disregard animals when they can't make money off them or no longer have a need for them.
"Probably what I'm more struck by is understanding that a lot of times, people's relationship to animals is that they are disposable," she said, adding what constitutes humane treatment is changing. "And I think Lily's story will be a big part of telling why that's so necessary and important."