Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Starving Horses

The next pasture over from our place is home to four horses who are all in terrible shape. Their owner lives in Austin and rarely (if ever) comes up to take care of them, assuming I suppose that all they need is whatever grass nature sees fit to put inside the fence. Here's the result of that kind of neglect:

Annie has contacted the county sheriff before to report the abusive neglect, but they did nothing. She tried again, with the same result. So this time we used the power of the Internet, posting some pictures along with a request for people to call the county directly to Craig's List.

At least ten different people called Animal Control on behalf of these horses, and the responses they got were illuminating. Half were told there'd never been a complaint before, which we know is a lie because we've complained. The other half were told the case had been investigated and they were just "old horses".

That is not an old horse, that is a starved horse. You should not be able to see the ribs and the hip bones like that unless an animal is in the last stages of death; he's barely more than skin and bones. Plus, one of the four is the filly of another, so clearly that one isn't ancient. We've seen these horses over the course of the last two years go from reasonably healthy to skeletons, and all the while the public agencies whose job it is to look after their welfare have failed to do much of anything.

A few hours after the calls started rolling in to the sheriff's office, the owner showed up and was frantically shoving grain through the fence. He's an attorney and apparently, law enforcement sticks together. I can imagine the panicked officer getting his buddy on the phone, telling him he better figure out something quick because other people were starting to notice.

The Good Ol' Boy Network only goes so far.

On the one hand, it's good that the guy gave his animals, finally, something to eat. On the other hand, when you've got horses in conditions this dire, giving them too much grain at once can make them colic and die. I'm sure he's only going to be paying attention long enough for people to take the heat off, and then the horses will be right back in the same spot -- starving, alone, and with no one to look out for them.

Except us. We'll be watching, and now, thanks to the power of the Internet, hopefully the rest of the world will be too.


Anonymous said...

Good on you both for watching out and reporting. It's disgusting that nothing is being done though. I wonder if there is a higher agency that can be notified?

Or anonymously drop the miscreant's name to PETA >;) If "somebody" hasn't already beaten you to it.

Is it normal practice to leave the halter on for extended periods when not being ridden as shown in the picture? Just curious.

Jeff Hebert said...

There are a couple of other state-wide private horse abuse agencies that have contacted Annie, and they're supposedly sending someone out to take a look. Hopefully that will help. What's odd -- or, sadly, what's not so odd at all -- is that the sheriff's far more worried about harassing whoever's reporting the abuse than they are about making sure the horses are taken care of. If they'd just do their jobs in the first place and not lie to people about it, they'd have a much easier time overall.

And no, leaving the halter on when a horse is out in a pasture is not a good idea. They can catch it on brush or a tree and panic, going so far as snapping their own necks. A lot of people leave the halters on because it's easier to catch a horse when you need it, but it's far, far more dangerous for the animal. We actually stopped off on the side of the road once and took a halter off a horse stuck in a pasture because one of the straps had broken and was dragging on the ground, which is even worse -- they can step on the strap and fall, breaking a leg.

Basically it's something lazy owners do for their own convenience, safety of the animal be damned.

carlsonjok said...

Good for you. Stuff like this bugs the sh*t out of me. I am lucky to live in a community where the police take this stuff seriously. They have prosecuted two horse abuse cases in the last year, to my knowledge.

I feel compelled to make a couple suggestions. Forgive me if I am relating stuff you already know. One thing to watch for is signs of lameness. Often founder/laminitis is caused by a rapid change in diet. Stuffing high potency grain into a malnourished horse is just asking for trouble.

Also, given the rain we have had this spring, I am surprised that these horses haven't attained some level of reasonable weight being out on pasture. Our horses are fed only the small portions of grain, spend most of their day grazing, and way too fat. I'm guessing they are not out on a dry lot since you would have mentioned it, so I would be concerned about other health issues that are causing them to not be able to keep weight on. The rescue groups should check their teeth and, if possible, have a sympathetic vet check them. At a minimum, they need to have a Coggins test run. I'm willing to bet they are not up to date on shots and weight loss is one symptom of Equine Infectious Anemia. I suppose it goes without saying that you should not let your horses share a fenceline with them until they get a negative Coggins.

Anonymous said...

Way to go, Jeff and Annie. We have an animal control agency here that's extremely vigilant. What about your local newspaper? They usually love helping animals and they hate attorneys. These photos would definitely make the front page and put the fire on those horrible people. Most of all, it helps the horses. Denise

Anonymous said...

I find it very hard to believe that someone hates attorneys!

This makes me very grateful for the people that keep their horses on our land. Those horses are spoiled rotten! They come by three times a day to feed, tend and give attention to them. They also take them on frequent rides so the animals get exercise. I'll have to tell them what a great job they do.