To Save a Horse
Neglect Or Cruelty: How Horses Are Rescued
(First appeared in The
Equiery December 2006)
by Laurel Scott
As Kathleen Schwartz, co-founder of Days End Farm attests, a lot goes
into a humane investigation before a rescue can take place – and
there are many variables from county to county. “Investigations
are many times handled differently, depending on the individual county’s
requirements and county laws,” she explained. “It also depends
on if [the investigating body is] a humane society or has the ‘government’ animal control contract.
“ Some counties do not even handle complaints on horses, but just
dogs and cats,” she continued. “Then there are the American
Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Societies
and the Animal Control organizations – and, depending on the county,
some split up the investigations. In some cases, it just depends on
who gets the calls.”
However, there is some common ground, according to Days End Farm board
member Carolyn “Nicky” Ratliff, who is also executive director
of the Humane Society and Animal Control for Carroll County. In her
experience, most Maryland animal control agencies — or private
humane organizations authorized to enforce the local animal control
ordinances and the state anti-cruelty statutes — address alleged
cruelty to horses in the following manner:
1. The organization receives the complaint and gathers
as much information as possible.
2. An animal control officer/investigator is sent to
the address to check on the equine’s welfare. If there is an issue,
the owner will be told what needs to be done to rectify the situation;
if not, the case is logged in as “unfounded.” Photographs
are usually taken.
Possible issues to be addressed would include proper space, water, food,
and veterinary care, including hoof care and shelter or protection from
the weather. If there is no emergency and the owner is willing to cooperate,
then he/she is to remedy the situation/get a vet in, build a loafing
shed, make repairs, etc.
The investigator will check back in a reasonable amount of time to see
whether the issues have been addressed. He/she may also contact the
veterinarian and see what was recommended, following up to be sure that
everything was carried out by the owner. If the issues have been properly
addressed, the case will probably be closed; if not, then other actions
will either be considered or taken.
3. If there is an outstanding issue, and the owner refuses
to take the proper action, then the animal control officer/investigator
will consult with his/her supervisor, perhaps a veterinarian and possibly
the state’s attorney, to decide the next move. That could be a
citation, a charge of cruelty to animals and/or, if warranted, the removal
of the equine(s) from the property (only on the recommendation of a
licensed Maryland veterinarian).
For the return of his/her animals, the owner would have to file/apply
to the district court in the county where the animals were removed within
10 days. If this is done, a hearing would be scheduled and a judge would
decide whether or not the animals would be returned. If this is not
done, the animals would be considered abandoned and treated as such.
Charges of animal cruelty may or may not be issued at the discretion
of the authorities.