Operators of another Colorado horse rescue have been accused of animal cruelty, less than a month after a similar case occurred in the state. Now, one rescue industry operator in that state says the two seizures illustrate the plight of well-intentioned rescuers who become overwhelmed when their herds significantly increase.
“We’ve had problems with rescues in Colorado before,” said Julie DeMuesy, director of DreamCatchers Equine Rescue in Pueblo, Colo. “This is what happens to people; they get into trouble.”
DeMuesy is the current custodian of a herd of 38 horses–some of them Mustangs–removed by Park County authorities between Dec. 26 and Jan. 16 from the Flying Ah Horse Rescue Ranch operated by Carol Martin and her husband Keith Synnestvedt near Fairplay, Colo. The seizure took place after neighboring ranchers complained to Park County Animal Control authorities that the horses appeared to be starving.
The Flying Ah Ranch removal took place around the same time 27 animals, including 16 allegedly malnourished horses, were seized from the Animal Angels Horse Rescue operated by Alesha Matchett near Fort Collins.
According to Park County Animal Control Officer Corp. Bobbi Priestly, Martin and Synnestvedt are each charged with seven counts of animal cruelty.
“These are Class 3 misdemeanor charges,” Priestly said. “Each count carries penalties of 18 months in prison and $1,500 in fines.”
DeMuesy said the Flying Ah horses arrived at DreamCatchers Rescue with body condition scores of 1 and 2. In addition to their emaciated state, DeMuesy said the horses had serious hoof problems, were in need of deworming, and at least one mare had a life-threatening bladder infection.
According to Denise Adamic, spokesperson for the Colorado office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), nine of the seized horses were former BLM mustangs that had been adopted into private homes more than a year before they were brought to Martin for sanctuary.
“That means those nine horses were under private–not BLM–ownership when the removal took place,” Adamic said. “Also, brand inspectors are checking brands on two others against our data base to see if they are BLM horses or if they are privately owned.”
According to Adamic, BLM inspectors visited Martin’s ranch in August 2006 to check on a Mustang she sought to adopt. At the time, Adamic said, inspectors found the horse in good condition.
According to DeMuesy, some of the horses have been socialized, and a couple of geldings have had some training.
“But some will never be socialized, including a 24-year-old mare,” she said.
When their conditions are stabilized, new homes will be sought for the horses, which have stretched DreamCatchers to what DeMuesy considers the reasonable limit.
“I usually run a herd of about 40 horses,” she said. “This is really straining us. We’re contacting other rescues to help us place this herd or find foster homes. If we place a few horses here and a few horses there, no one will be overwhelmed.”
She also intends to discuss placing some of the herd with Mustang rescues in Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming, and Utah.
In the meantime, to help accommodate the physical needs of the herd, DeMuesy has been reaching out to ranchers, other Colorado Rescues, and even the general public.
“The response has been wonderful,” she said. “People immediately stepped up to volunteer their time and resources to help us.”
DeMuesy said she’d like to see the problems encountered by Flying Ah serve as a catalyst for a coalition in her state to prevent rescuers from failing to serve horses’ needs when herds increase and resources get stretched to the limit.