Friday, September 11, 2015

Horse Abuse

I would reckon that 100% of the people reading this site get as sad and angry as I do when we hear about horse abuse. I did not put up with boarders using abusive training methods or otherwise neglecting basic care for their horses when I ran a large horse barn years ago. Nor today when I am out of the public stables business, do I sit still when notified of horse abuse cases, which most commonly are not providing adequate feed, water or hoof care.

I am angry not only at horse owners who insist of owning horses but do not provide adequate care, but get angry as well as county officials who fail to correct the situation. My wife is even worse. She gets so livid at abusive owners and 'do nothing' county officials, that I worry about her getting arrested when confronting either. I think it makes her perpetually sad as it does me. I have known a couple ladies in the animal rescue business, who eventually moved out of the area as they just could no longer reconcile the daily disappointments in what mankind does to animals. ......I think we'll all be judged some day, by our Maker, who will hold us to account for how we treated his creatures.  I figure they are just on loan to us.

There are many layers to the problem and potential solutions. From the Law Enforcement side, lack of resources is often the biggest restriction to having a robust animal abuse investigative arm. Everything from irate parents complaining about speeders, to DUI checkpoints, to anti-gang task forces all eat up LE resources, often leaving only a animal abuse investigator who often does not have citation, emergency confiscation or arrest authority. Then adding a lack of knowledge with the abuse investigators pertaining to horses and other livestock, and lack of stiff enough penalties to serve as a deterrent, all conspire to be obstacles to safeguard animals at risk.

Almost 2 years ago the property abutting part of my North property line began development of a horse facility. Two rail pipe fencing, a metal barn capable of holding large quantities of hay and equipment, and the beginning construction of a row of thirteen 10' x 10' cinder block stalls (which remain to this day half finished). Soon after, four horses in good body score condition were turned loose onto that property - a sorrel brood mare and her yearling colt, a bay mare, and a black and white paint gelding. Within a week we had a good idea on what type of horse owner this was, who was actually just allowed to use the property and did not have any ownership part of the property.

For the first several weeks, these horses were not fed.  Instead just eating the weeds on the property. Two 30 gallon barrels were on site for water, but the owner had to bring water in by tanker truck as he apparently could not pay the $75 quarterly water bill for county water. When the weeds ran out, they had to bring hay in. And a nice old man, who did not speak any English, was hired to care for the horses. He would routinely ask us for water as the absent owner failed to contract for it to be brought in. And we would often tell the old man that the horses were getting skinny and lack of feed would impact bad on the growing colt. Then we learned that the absent owner would often fail to send money or arrange delivery of feed as well. Eventually the old man quit as he was not getting paid nor could he stand to see the animals in such condition.

The property accumulated junk - rebar, broken cinder blocks, steel pipe, angle irons pieces, etc. We advised the owner about the threat to the horses and ended up treating one of the horse who sustained a bad cut on her hocks because the owner refused to call a Vet. My wife ended up dressing and cleaning that wound daily until it healed. We also worked one of their horses through a case of colic.

Aside from that, my wife and I ensured that these horses did not go for very long with water and some grass hay. We also called the County Animal Control several times to respond when the owner would be absent for several days at a time. The Animal Control Officer, despite our pointing out how low those horses scored on the Body Condition Scale, using the Henneke System Equine Body Condition Scoring System, developed by Don R. Henneke, PhD of Tarleton State, University of Texas, 1983. The Animal Control Officer would just tell us, "they look good to me. Call me when they get worse."

We had no problem making repeat calls to Animal Control which eventually led to the owner moving his horses to an open field, where he built a temporary fence around more cinder block stalls. A few people would call us about those horses, we would go down and check them out, and call animal control to investigate. Many times there was no water on the property in stock tanks or otherwise, and horses continue to lose weight.

The last time was a few days ago. There were only two horses on that property now. We think at least one of the died and the gelding was likely sold.  My wife was crying as she called me to described the condition of these horses. The Bay More, a really nice horse and the one who had the hock injury, is in the picture at right. This picture was taken after the horse drank two 17 quart buckets of water helping to expand her barrel and make her appear just a little better.  The sorrel colt is actually now a two year old, coming three this spring - and still looks like a yearling to me. He is the horse in the photo at the top of this article - what do you think? Anyway, my wife filled up two 17 quart buckets with water for the horses which they promptly drank dry, then she filled them up again and they drank them dry one more time. I called Animal Control and the Sheriffs Office at 10.00 am in the morning and they finally responded at 5.00 pm.

We spent an hour explaining to the deputies about our history of reporting on these animals, lack of a county solution, how to body score a horse, what would constitute fair care, necessary hoof care, the lack of water, lack of feed, and tell tale lack of manure which indicated the horses were eating their own manure - little of that they were producing.

We coordinated for a local rescue to take the horses, providing a confiscation order could be obtained that the deputies assured me was being worked. But we learned the next day that the owner, after being contacted by Law Enforcement, brought in hay and water and assured the deputies that the horses would be taken care of. We were informed that the abuse case was dropped.

Law Enforcement may have dropped it, but we aren't letting it go. We'll be checking on these horses weekly and calling Animal Control and the Sheriffs Office as needed. I think what efforts that man and society makes to correct animal abuse is a snapshot into our collective morale health as a people. Again, well be held accountable.

Safe Journey. 

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