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Equine rescue

Fri, Dec 7th, 2012
Posted in All Features

About 55 horses, mules, ponies and donkeys were removed from a farm in southwestern Fillmore County on November 29 due to alleged neglect and cruelty. After the Fillmore County Sheriff Department and Animal Humane Society (AHS) Agent Keith Streff responded to a complaint regarding the hazardous conditions for the animals, arrangements were made with the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation and other equine rescue organizations to remove the animals. During the 24-hour period from the time of initial contact and the time when transportation and other preparations for the removal of the animals were made, the owner managed to remove 20 to 25 of the animals from the property. Their whereabouts is unknown.

Agent Streff, Golden Valley, Minnesota, is the director of humane investigations and is tasked with enforcement and conducting criminal investigations of alleged violations of the Minnesota animal welfare chapter. As a certified investigator, he is employed with the AHS, a non-profit organization, which is supported solely with donations and fees. It is his job to react to facts and determine culpability. Streff noted that this is the largest case of equine seizure and transportation during his 25 years of humane investigations. He explained via telephone that they were gathering prima facie evidence of a chronic case of neglect. Through photographs, forensics, and an individual medical report on many of the animals, facts and circumstances are presented for criminal review. No arrest has been made at this point. Criminal charges may or may not be filed after a review of the evidence by the county attorney. The investigation was still ongoing at the time of this report.

Most of the animals were moved to the Fillmore County Fairgrounds before moving them to locations where they will be treated and cared for appropriately for their condition. Twelve of the most critical cases were transported to the University of Minnesota Large Animal Hospital in St. Paul where forensic evidence can be gathered and health problems treated. Four animals had to be euthanized. At least one more may need to be.

Many of the animals were severely malnourished, some had untreated wounds and other injuries. One young mule had over grown her too-small halter, which was embedded in her neck and head, the raw area infected. The animals were in a relatively small enclosure considering the large number of animals. The enclosure was littered with decomposing carcasses and discarded junk.

Drew Fitzpatrick, Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation, spoke to me via telephone about the future of these animals. The foundation is in charge of evaluating each animal, stabilizing, improving their health, and eventually placing the animals. It is a non-profit organization with the mission of rescuing horses and other hooved animals in distress, treating them with compassion and respect and acting in the animal’s best interest. They also strive to educate the public on the welfare of hooved animals. Fitzpatrick explained that in addition to caring for the physical needs of the horses, the foundation works to train some of them through their Trainers Challenge program. Many of the animals are probably not even halter broke.

Foster homes will be found for the animals once they are well enough. The horses and other equines were coggins tested, pregnancy checked when appropriate, and dewormed. Streff explained that when horses have a body condition score (BCS) of one or two, bringing them back to a normal, healthy body condition is a complex science and more difficult than one might expect. In cases of severe emaciation, introducing a normal diet too quickly can be deadly. On a Nutrena website detailing the rehabilitation of neglected horses it states, “Horses with a BCS of one or two have often experienced actual starvation.” To get to that point it may take 60 to 90 days without feed or four months with poor water and forage. These animals have lost both fat and considerable muscle mass.

For more information about the foundation, visit their website at www.mnhoovedanimalrescue.org/ They are seeking financial support to help with expenses of food, transportation, vet care, and surgeries. Checks can be sent to PO Box 47, Zimmerman, Minnesota 55398. Donations of hay and bedding would be appreciated.

Fitzpatrick is also a state investigator and helped gather forensic evidence. She described carcasses on the property in different stages of decomposition, numbering near twenty. Streff is in charge of the legal aspect of the case.

Fitzpatrick wanted to commend the Fillmore County sheriff deputies, saying they were very helpful and their assistance was wonderful.

Both Fitzpatrick and Streff agreed this is a case of “animal hoarding.” Streff said it is “absolutely consistent with the phenomenon of a hoarding complex.” The breed or species has no impact on the phenomenon itself, whether horses, gerbils or any other animal. In these cases of hoarding the deplorable conditions and injuries lead to death. Streff explained what he called a rolling herd dynamic, a shifting in the process, where animals that are in relatively good condition in a matter of days could shift to standard, in a few more days to bad, and finally, to dead.


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11:48:55, Dec 10th 2012

riata says:
Why don't you do some more research and talk to the gentleman that owned those horses. Or the many horse owners in the area that have done business with him.

Perfect Glossy