Superior Court Judge Alison Frazier ruled Wednesday that a Dupont man accused of cruelty to animals cannot evaluate dozens of horses that were confiscated from his rental property in January.

The order came after Jeff Hayes, 51, had requested the names and addresses of all caregivers who housed his horses after they were seized by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. At the same time, the county had filed a protective order to withhold names and information about the volunteer caregivers during court proceedings.

Earlier this year, Frazier allowed the sheriff's department to seek adoption homes for 75 horses confiscated from Hayes. Those rulings came after two separate state veterinarian reports that found many of the horses were malnourished, according to court records.

On Wednesday, attorney Pat Magrath, who is representing the county in the case, said the caregivers aided the county during a time of "extraordinary need" and that including them in court proceedings could make them "substantially less interested" in helping in the future.

In addition, he said the state veterinarian reports already list the conditions of each horse.

"The relevant evidence already has been exposed," he said.

Hayes' attorney John Watson argued caregivers' testimony was necessary in assessing the condition of the horses at the time they were seized. Also, he said the testimony would give the court a better representation for any final restitution amounts the county may seek.

"How can that be harmful to anyone?" he asked.

Frazier agreed with the county, ruling that because of the state reports, the caregivers' testimony was not relevant to Hayes' defense.