Authorities charged a pre-veterinary student at Michigan State University with animal cruelty after finding seven dead lambs, a dead horse and three undernourished dogs at her family's farm.
Kate Mills, 20, who held the title of "4-H queen" for the local chapter of the 4-H international youth-oriented agricultural organization, could lose her crown if convicted, a club board member said.
Mills has been charged with a felony count of torturing and killing animals at her family's farm, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of Detroit. Her father, Mark Mills, 46; her mother, Ellen Mills, 44; and brother Andrew Mills, 19, were charged with the same count.
The family members also have been charged with misdemeanor counts of animal abandoning and cruelty, improper animal burial, and having an unlicensed dog. They could face up to four years in prison if convicted of the most serious allegations.
Family attorney David Richardson said he plans to request dismissal of the charges against Kate Mills, noting that she was living in East Lansing during the school year. He said the charges against the family are meritless.
"Animal control left (numerous) animals in their care and custody, including other sheep, horses and a cow," Richardson said. "Are these people selectively abusing just certain animals? It doesn't seem logical."
Chief Prosecutor Byron Konschuh said authorities had been to the home previously on animal complaints, none of which resulted in charges.
A preliminary hearing began Thursday and was to continue June 19.