'Horse holocaust' - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

'Horse holocaust'

Neighbors of Mustang Ranch and Rescue say animals are being starved

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Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 12:00 am

A Cataldo ranch claiming to be a nonprofit equine rescue operation is under investigation by the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office following reports by neighbors that horses were being abused at the ranch.

The calls first came in last week, and gruesome images of skinny horses emerged, along with details of animals so hungry they were chewing on fences and eating their own feces.

"This place is saying it is a horse rescue by taking in horses that are malnourished," said Kootenai County Sheriff's Office Lt. Stu Miller. "Residents don't think (the ranch) is taking care of the animals."

Miller said the Idaho State Brand Inspector and U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has a special section for equine welfare, have also been contacted to help with the investigation.

"The biggest thing is that we want to make sure the horses aren't in any danger," Miller said. "We're trying to figure out if (the ranch) perpetuated that neglect, or if those horses were already in that condition when they got them."

Dawn Dempsey, a horse rescuer with Survivors Rescue in Sandpoint, said she is livid about the way Mustang Ranch and Rescue has treated its horses.

"There's no reason those horses are still there," she said. "They need to be saved. Somebody needs to step up to the plate. We are doing everything we can to get the word out and get these horses safe."

Dempsey said she begged Sean Black, who owns Mustang Ranch and Rescue with wife Bonny, to let Survivors Rescue come and get the horses, but said he refused to let that happen.

Mustang Ranch and Rescue does not have a website, but did have a Facebook page, with the ranch's mission statement, that was accessible to the public on Monday.

"Mustang Ranch and Rescue is dedicated to saving horses bound for slaughter for human consumption," the statement read. "We also assist in cases of horse abuse, neglect and abandonment. And those who are victims of financial hardships. We work to encourage owner responsibility and humane treatment and care of all equines. We rescue, rehab, & adopt them into a new home. If you own a horse that needs a new home, or know of an abused or neglected horse, please contact us."

Phone messages were left at a contact number for the ranch, but the calls were not returned, and the Facebook page appears to have been taken down.

Authorities, meanwhile, were at the ranch Tuesday. One deputy, who had his light on in the driveway up to the ranch, was parked blocking the way up and two animal control vehicles were also present.

Miller said the investigation started when the sheriff's office received a notice that there were two horses down and deceased on the property.

As word got out, several local residents made attempts to get horses off the ranch.

Candi Beeler, a resident of Cataldo, said she was able to barter with ranch staff members on Thursday in exchange for two 5-month-old horses. They let her take another horse named Shammy, for free, she said.

Shammy was in such poor condition, Beeler said, that the animal had to be euthanized Monday.

"She was extremely skinny and her temperature was at 90 degrees. She was extremely hypothermic," Beeler said.

Beeler said the two babies she bartered for are in good condition.

Amber Coberly, who paid $60 for a yearling filly horse from the ranch on Sunday night, described the scene at the ranch as dire.

"The best way to describe it is a horse holocaust," Coberly said. "If someone doesn't get these horses out they will be dead in a month."

Coberly, who said she has 13 horses of her own and rides and trains horses, said she witnessed horses chewing on the fences, licking the ground for food and eating their own feces because they were so hungry.

She said she also saw a pit at the ranch with five to six dead horses laying in it.

"They're in denial," she said of the ranch workers. "It's more ignorance than anything else. I can tell they've been riding them, which is the worst part."

She said they would ride the horses in order to train them and make them better for adoption.

Jarret Baker, who also bartered for a horse from the ranch, said he first visited the ranch in July when he noticed an advertisement on Craigslist for a horse named Dreamer.

Baker said he saw dead horses more recently at the ranch, but they were laying out in plain sight and not in a pit.

He said he is still making attempts to get another horse from the ranch.

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  • Amber Coberly posted at 2:53 pm on Wed, Oct 9, 2013.

    Amber Coberly Posts: 1

    Where do I start? lets start with Shammy. She may have been inbreed but that does not explain weight loss. When Candi took her from your house she was down on the ground and had been down. Why didn't you call the vet when she was down. Any vet clinic would have come if you would have been honest with the situation. She is not the only horse on your property with weight loss. Every horse on the property is under weight. The yearling that died on your property that had these so called heart problems? How do you know she had heart problems if you have never had a vet on the property. I personally worked at a local vet clinic for a few years and I know they treat horses that are not halter broke. I like how you explain what parrot mouth is, because I personally explained it you on Sunday, so yes you may have had a horse with parrot mouth, but you did not know what is was until I told you. Also there is a difference between cribbing and eating the fence. Cribbing is when a horse latches on to a piece of fence or tree or any hard material and sucks in air. It gives them a high. Your horses are eating the fences.. Also you may have hay now, but you got that hay from Candi Beeler and you only had half a around bale left when she brought it. You have no " hay" contacts we had to give you names and numbers of people with hay. Please look at what you are doing, there are people willing to help you. I was willing, but I can see that you are blinded by pride. That is why I went public with this. I am sorry your children are getting threats they do not deserve this but how dare you teach them and this is what a rescue does and that is how you treat animals, they, like those horses deserve better. In their minds you and Bonny are heroes, be a real hero and show them how to do the right thing. They really believe in you as a parent be a parent.

  • Joe Lent posted at 1:29 pm on Wed, Oct 9, 2013.

    Joe Lent Posts: 4

    Congratulations to the Coeur d'Alene Press for the fine article in today's paper, and pictures. You must be a fine newspaper if you have concern for animals. Especially in face of an indifferent Sheriff and what may be an incompetent State Veterinarian and Dept. of Agriculture. A good followup would be to report on how tough Idaho laws are on animal neglect and abuse, which are set by your state legislators. All animals, from dogs and cats to horses can now be microchipped for tracing in order to hold breeders and owners responsible for the lifetime of a animal.

  • Joe Lent posted at 8:58 am on Wed, Oct 9, 2013.

    Joe Lent Posts: 4

    A great bunch of excuses Sean but you haven't told us why you and Bonny allowed horses to lose weight after they were in your care? Why one or more had to be euthanized due to dehydration and starvation. Do you know that stores sell hay, senior feed, water tanks, etc., for elderly and emaciated horses. We in America are now watching Kootenai County officials to see if criminal charges of animal abuse are filed, and if everyone who donated money or horses to Mustang Ranch and Rescue gets their money back. It will also be interesting to check Idaho state laws on animal abuse to see how tough they are.

  • Joe Lent posted at 8:44 am on Wed, Oct 9, 2013.

    Joe Lent Posts: 4

    If people want to see pictures of the real situation at Cataldo, they can call up North Horse on Facebook, click on one picture and view other pictures showing how horses have gone down hill since Sean and Bonny Black obtained them. Here in Colorado, we are glad to see the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department is finally taking action, but what has the sheriff been doing for several years? Now, America will get to see how competent the Kootenai County judicial system is. A slap on the wrist, or criminal charges?

  • oscar posted at 7:29 am on Wed, Oct 9, 2013.

    oscar Posts: 1139

    Thanks for your post Sean. Sometimes people forget to let the investigation finish and let the facts guide us. If you made criminal errors, charges will be file, if not hopefully you will get guidance..

  • sean black posted at 4:11 am on Wed, Oct 9, 2013.

    sean black Posts: 1

    We have tries to take the high road during this time, but due to the lies being publish by cda press and all of the threats my daughters have received I can see that is no longer possible.
    First I would like to respond to all the misleading information out there. There is no ditch "with 5-6 dead horses in it" We lost 2 horses within 48 hours, one due to old age being that she was 28 years old it shouldn't come as a surprise. The other was a 1 year old filly that had had inherent heart problems. I chose to bury the horses because where they had passed away was impossible to get a truck down to due to the rain, not only that but, we couldn't bear the thought of taking them to the county waste management and throwing them away like garbage. We wanted to see them buried with some semblance of dignity. Which according to everything I have read on social media was a mistake, as I am now accused of having a "ditch full of dead horses".
    Secondly, as anyone who has horses in corrals built of wood can tell you-some horses do crib. And for those that don't have horses- cribbing means that a horse will chew on the wooden rails a corral is built out of. When 16 horses are chewing on the rails, it does indeed get chewed through pretty quick. And they get chewed even more when the rails are separating herd mates.
    Third, these horses are not being starved to death!!! The State vet, the State Brand Inspector, and Kootenai County Animal Control were all here yesterday. The State vet told us that we needed to increase their concentrated caloric intake(grains), but other than that what we are feeding is good. He also said the quality of hay could stand to be better, but I will be the first to admit I am not a hay farmer and cannot identify one grass blade type from another in a bale, and have to take the farmers word for it when we go to get it. That being said, he also stated that he thought it was good hay but didn't have as many calories to it as maybe it should.
    Obviously, if the State Vet didn't seize the horses right then and there, then the condition of the horses cannot be anywhere near as bad as Amber Coberly has described.
    What happened to "Shammy" is a shame and a travesty. she dropped all of her body weight in 3 weeks. I went through the phone book calling vets to come out and exam her but was told that since she was unhandled and untouchable they wouldn't even come out. I was told I needed to find someone to come dart her so the vet could get in with her to exam her. We then tried to find someone who would do that for us and hit yet another dead end. Could we have done more? I'm sure we could have, i'm just not sure as to what it may have been. This poor horse stood with her face in a feeder of hay all day and continued to drop weight. All of these horses here are wormed monthly, so that wasn't what caused it, it wasn't a lack of feed or water, we are not sure what caused it. We had to put one done recently out of the same herd that had a severe case of parrot mouth, which is when the lower jaw is much smaller than the upper jaw and she couldn't chew well enough to get the nutrients from the hay. At that point we began to think what was happening to Shammy was genetic.
    And lastly, we did shutdown our Facebook page as well as our website due to threats being made against our children. We have also suspended all rescue operations and adoptions for the same reason. At this point I don't know if anyone coming here is here to adopt one of these horses or cause harm to my family. We will NOT be releasing any horses to Survivors Rescue Inc. due to the lies and threats of violence being advocated and perpetuated on their facebook acct. We ask for the public to respect our privacy and out property at this time, and to let the Authorities do there job.

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