Toward Greener Pastures for 80 Starving Horses

By on November 25, 2009 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

There really can be no relenting in our efforts at The HSUS because so many animals are at risk. We’ve got to have a marathoner’s endurance to deal with many formidable challenges we face in confronting large-scale institutionalized cruelty. But we must also have the speed of a sprinter to respond to the crises of the day.

Two of 84 neglected horses rescued in Cannon County, Tennessee on Nov. 24
The HSUS/Karla Goodson
Two of the 84 neglected horses rescued Tuesday.

Yesterday, our HSUS team was on the road again, this time in Cannon County, Tennessee, sprinting to the scene of a crime. There, our people worked with the county sheriff’s office and rescued 84 horses, two goats, eight dogs, and 15 chickens from absolutely deplorable and unacceptable conditions.

Today, as we ready ourselves for Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the life-saving work of my colleagues. I am thankful for our partners who help us conduct these operations. And I am thankful to our supporters for giving us the resources and support that we need.

I’ve asked Scotlund Haisley, our senior director of Emergency Services, to provide a dispatch from the field.

The wheels for this rescue were set in motion late last week when the Cannon County Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Agriculture called The HSUS’s Tennessee state director to request our assistance. Apparently a group of local children playing in the woods stumbled upon several dead horses, setting off this entire case. Although our team was still in Canada wrapping up the rescue of 100 sled dogs, we immediately began planning for what we expected to be a very challenging intervention.

We then called in United Animal Nations to provide sheltering support. Invaluable local assistance was provided by Volunteer Equine Advocates and the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Once this core team was put together we wasted no time coming to the aid of these desperate horses.

One of 84 neglected horses rescued in Cannon County, Tennessee on Nov. 24

This was cruelty on a grand scale.

When our team arrived on scene Tuesday morning we found dozens of horses at the end of their rope; literally struggling to survive (see video). The Tennessee walking horses, spotted saddle horses, and quarter horses were spread across the 120-acre property in barren pastures and a dank barn. The first thing that you notice about these horses is how painfully emaciated they are.

At one time these were robust animals, but now their skin stretches tight over every bone, their bellies are swollen with worms and their hooves have grown so long that the horses are literally walking on their ankles. This was obviously not an easy sight for our team to take in. But worse were the dead horses that we were too late to save.

Once the Sheriff’s Department grasped the seriousness of the situation they obtained a seizure warrant, allowing us to remove every animal from the property. This is when our work truly began. One after another, we led nearly lifeless horses into a long line of waiting trailers.

Almost every one of these horses is suffering from severe emaciation, from a simple lack of food. But I believe today we were able to restore their hope, and it is our goal over the next few weeks to improve their vitality and strength. All 84 horses have been safely transported to our emergency shelter and are being thoroughly evaluated by veterinarians and receiving the care they so desperately need.

As I walked through the stable last night I was struck by the quiet air of contentedness that surrounded me. Animals who began the day in bleak squalor ended it with full bellies and hovering guardians. Some of the horses dozed in their clean, well-bedded stalls, while others munched fervently on sweet hay. One especially vulnerable member of the rescue—a two-day-old foal whose mother is not producing milk—will need feeding every two hours. A team member has taught this little victim to drink from a bottle, and he seems to be perking up.

Many of these horses showed love as if they were once spoiled and praised in an earlier stage of their lives. But by different paths they all made their way to a life of misery on the farm in Cannon County. Today I can feel a weight lifted off my shoulders knowing we are leading them back towards greener pastures.

Animal Rescue and Care, Equine

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