Every so often, the media gets it wrong. Really wrong. Recently, Care2 ran a story about a horse rescue situation in Simi Valley, California. Our story relied on information from several press accounts. However, we’ve learned since then that many of the facts were incorrectly reported.
Rather than perpetuate inaccurate information, we want Care2’s readers to know what sources close to the situation have told us.
Shortly after our story ran, Care2 was contacted by Dr. David Ramey. Dr. Ramey is a veterinarian in Encino, California with over 30 years of experience specializing in the care of horses. His expertise includes equine welfare, a topic on which he has written books and articles and lectured around the world.
Some may remember that Dr. Ramey was quoted in the stories on this incident as saying all the attention was an “overreaction.” He had much more to say than just that, but his explanation of what was really going on wasn’t reported.
We have that story now, supported by confirmation of key facts by the abuse investigators of the Humane Society of Ventura County (HSVC).
According to Dr. Ramey, the situation in Simi Valley occurred because an elderly horse lover tried to do a good deed and bit off more than he could chew.
The owner of the property, who lives on site in a simple trailer with no power, apparently was told by someone that there were nine horses needing an immediate home, or they would have to “be killed.” Since the property is quite large enough for horses to roam, the owner, a lifelong horse lover, agreed to take them.
“Unfortunately, the old man did not have the means — and perhaps not the strength or stamina — to adequately care for the horses,” Dr. Ramey told Care2. “The old man, lacking the resources to buy enough feed for all of the horses, and probably the energy to take care of them, got in over his head.”
It is our understanding that HSVC was told the same thing.
Contrary to press reports, the horses were fed daily, not three times per week, says Dr. Ramey. Friends of the owner stepped in when it became apparent that the property owner couldn’t handle things himself. They even bought hay at their own expense to be sure the horses were fed, he says.
“However, since the horses were fed together, over time, the more dominant horses kept their weight, while the less dominant ones got thinner,” Dr. Ramey told Care2. Importantly, he says, “None of the horses were emaciated, and none of them met the legal standards for abuse or neglect.”
Care2 confirmed this point with the Director of Investigations for HSVC , John Brockus, who was also present on June 29th. He said HSVC saw nothing at the site that day that they would consider abuse or neglect.
HSVC employs Ventura County’s only humane officers, so Mr. Brockus’ office would conduct any investigations into neglect or abuse allegations, where necessary. In this case, they determined, based on the situation, that it was not necessary to seize any of the horses that day.
Dr. Ramey says he became involved at the site in a limited way when he was called in by friends of the owner to examine the leg of one of the horses in late May. At that time, he says he was told about the horse that had slipped on some rocks and had been found dead. (He notes that there was no foal nearby, as has been previously reported).
The horse Dr. Ramey examined apparently had a fractured leg. He says he was told the horse would be, and was, appropriately euthanized. This horse is believed to be the second carcass found on the property. Sad and distasteful as it is, Dr. Ramey says there’s no law in California requiring that the carcasses be disposed of, and the owner couldn’t afford to have them moved.
A couple of weeks after his first visit, Dr. Ramey says he was called by friends of the property owner to examine a grey gelding with a large wound to its right shoulder. The wound, which appeared in some press photos, looked bad, but was in fact “not serious, and posed no threat to the horse.” It couldn’t be sutured and had to heal naturally. Photos provided by Dr. Ramey show that the wound is indeed healing. Dr. Ramey reports that this horse is fine and well cared for in a new home.
“I also told the helpers that given this, the third accident, homes needed to be found for the horses, or I would have to call Animal Control,” Dr. Ramey told Care2. “Frankly, the third accident was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I thought that the situation was too much for the old man, as well as for the people who helped him. The next day, I was told that two of the horses were being adopted by friends of the old man, and I was asked to help find homes for some of the other ones.”
An organization Dr. Ramey called had no room for more horses, but they in turn called Auction Horses Rescue, who then called HSVC and the media, according to Dr. Ramey. HSVC confirmed for Care2 that they were called to the scene by Auction Horses Rescue. The story spiraled into a media event from there.
As things ended up, two horses were taken in by friends of the owner, four were voluntarily given to Auction Horses Rescue, and another four remained on site. HSVC revisited the site during the week of July 15th to check on the horses that are still there. These horses are fine, according to John Brockus.
“I think that the current times, where there are so many unwanted horses, are awful for horses,” said Dr. Ramey. “They need all of the help that they can get. It seems to me that the welfare of horses would best be served if we all worked together.”
We can’t argue with that!
Photo Credit: Thinkstock