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EquiNEWS! Archive

1997

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New Opinion Survey for Horse Industry

The Horse Industry Alliance reported March 25, 1997 on the results of an opinion survey it had commissioned. National Family Opinion had surveyed 60,000 U.S. households, obtaining a 70 percent response rate.

Highlights of the Survey:

  • 2.2 % of American households currently own horses.
  • 7.9 % are current riders.
  • 3.2 % used to own a horse; of those, 2.6% want to own again.
  • 12 % used to ride a horse; of those, 2.9% want to ride again.
  • 4.9 % are interested in owning a horse.
  • 13.3 % are interested in riding a horse.

  • Abused Horses Rescued in Malheur County Need Help!

    ===== Urgent! =====

    On March 17, 1997, the Malheur County Sheriff's Office executed a search warrant and seized 41 starving and abused horses from a ranch outside Vale, Oregon. Seven dogs were also taken to an animal shelter. Sadly, the remains of eight horses and one dog were also recovered. The seized animals are severely mal-nourished, infested with parasites, sick with infections and disease, and injuried. Several have untreated compound fractures, and are crippled. The Malheur County District Attorney's and Sheriff's Offices were assisted by local veternarians, and the SPCA, who estimate that half of the horses taken will have to be euthanized.

    Malheur County is a poor, rural County in Eastern Oregon. They have severe financial limitations, and have no resources to pay for the food and medical care the animals need. Hay is very expensive, and most local ranchers have none to spare or sell at this time of year. The County Judge found 15 tons, but that will only last a few days. The roundup and transportation of the animals to the Nyssa, Oregon rodeo grounds was accomplished by local volunteers, who brought their own horse trailers and stock horses. One of the deputy sheriff's was bitten trying to free one of the dogs, who were starved and being kept in filthy, deplorable conditions.

    The District Attorney's Office has set up a bank account at U.S. Bank, Vale, Oregon 97918 to accept donations which will be used for food and medical treatment.

    This is the second time Patricia Sullivan, District Attorney for Malheur County has prosecuted these owners, but the first time she has been able to do veternary examinations and autopsies. Patricia Sullivan is committed to holding the perpetrators of this cruelty accountable, and her first priority is insuring they do not have horses in their possession again. Recent changes in Oregon will hopefully help her effectly hold them criminally responsible, but in the mean time, these animals need food and medical care. The County can accept donations of hay, and would appreciate any help anyone can offer to keep as many of these animals alive as reasonably possible.

    To donate funds to the horribly abused Malheur County horses in Eastern Oregon, please mail your donation directly to: "Malheur County Horses", U.S. Bank, Vale, Oregon 97918.

    To donate, feed, services, goods, etc., please call: Sheriff Andy Bentz, 541-473-5135 or e-mail Patricia Sullivan, Malheur County District Attorney.

    TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE IN THIS CASE!

    If anyone can join us in helping Ms. Sullivan in her efforts, please do so. We are limited at the present time to what we can commit because of our current involvement with the horses of Arboga (flood) and that we have no Oregon HorseAid Chapter. But we WILL commit some of our resources to help her, can you do the same?

    For every donation of money, feed, or services to the above cause (please send/pledge all donations DIRECTLY to them, as listed above), HorseAid will send the donator a "Friend of the Malheur County Horses" certificate to acknowledge your help. Please let them know where you want your certificate sent (or e-mail us the details).


    Malheur County Update...

    Dear HorseAid, an update (and continued thanks to all who have supported our efforts). Bevans did not post the bond required by the Court and the horses and dogs became the property of the County Friday, April 5, 1997. As of this morning, one of the dogs had been adopted. Five more await homes. The horses are continuing to do great. The two with the worst broken legs have been put down, and evidence retained for Court. Bill Cummings, the Nyssa Police Chief, has asked to have one of the mare and colts, which he named Sweatheart and Porky, and one other volunteer has asked for one of the mares. Interestingly, the Oregon statute gives a preference for adoption, and a further preference for adoption by persons who have bonded to the horses.

    The remaining animals will be sold at an auction, tentatively scheduled for April 20, 1997. As over 300 people have come forward to adopt, the County Court wanted to be fair to everyone, and put enough value on the animals so that they would not be purchased for slaughter. We will reserve the right to refuse any bid, and do not contemplate sales to anyone other than individuals. There will probably be a minimum bid of $50.00 to cover the brand inspection, shots and health certificate. The County will not retain any of the funds realized from the sale or donations, after payment of expenses. Any funds remaining will either be placed in a special account to be used in future animal abuse cases for care of the animals, or donated to an appropriate horse related charity. Bill and his volunteers are continuing to work with the animals, to at least halter break them before they are sold. Yesterday, one of his children rode Sweatheart, probably the first time one of these horses has ever been riden.

    The mares and foals must stay together. Three of the mares have cancerous eyes, but all have foals or are pregnant, so will be adopted out "as is" to allow them to raise their foals. Purchasers must have their own transportation, and sign a release of liability to the County, and agree not to sell the animal for slaughter and provide acceptable care. We did not want to put too many prohibitions on the buyers, as many of these animals may eventually have to be put down due to various problems. All we want to do is ask people to do their best.

    We are in the process of a second worming (the first was horrible beyond discription) and continue to feed and care for the animals. There are never going to win any beauty contests, but they have come back much better than expected. I will advise you of the specifics of the sale as soon as possible. Meanwhile, my office will be settling down and working on prosecuting the Bevans.

    Thanks again for all of your support,

    Patricia Sullivan, District Attorney for Malheur County.

    Thank YOU Patricia!



    Arboga, CA Equine Flood Relief Still Needed

    (Since the flood, toxins have been dicovered in the available forage and water supplies)

    January 25, 1997 - Storms are quickly approaching the small livestock community of Arboga, located in Yuba County, California, and the community has already made provisions for the winter months to come. Suddenly, a new winter storm hits hard. This is different from the others, the winds are warm -- causing the snow pack in the hills to quickly melt. The dams now must release unlimited amounts of water to save the cities. The banks of the levees are not properly maintained for the limit of water released. Area goverment is confused and does not issue a "break warning" in time.

    Any one of these occurrances by itself would mean almost nothing, but all three occurring at the same time soon spell disaster for the community and animals of Arboga. Then, before anybody can take steps to prevent it -- it happens...

    One-thousand (1,000) feet of levee bursts wide open -- three football fields in length are now releasing a torrent of water into the 22 square miles that was once Arboga, California. In the next few minutes, what was once a green landscape dotted with colorful hay barns is now a raging river of destruction. Trapped and fenced livestock of all nature and type are caught in pens and fences meant to protect them, instead those pens and fences soon become instruments of death to them.

    Four or five men rush out to the area of the break with trailers and boats, and while home and farm owners are trying to get home (only to find their way blocked by the Sheriff's Department), the men with trailers and boats go out time and time again to open pens and save drowning animals. In one instance, a young girl is forced to watch as her family's horses drown; finding themselves unable to turn their backs on their neighbors drowning animals, the family saves everything possible and then at last, goes to save their own animals. Confronted with the threat of being "shot" by a Deputy Sheriff if they press on, they are forced to watch helplessly as their horses and a mule drown -- just yards from salvation. The storm not only ends up taking the lives of hundreds of dogs, cats, pigs, birds, wild animals and HORSES, it also takes their feed, leaving the animal survivors of Arboga to face starvation if feed is not made available soon (at last count, over two-hundred horses are known to have perished in the Arboga flood).

    Won't you please help? HorseAid has already secured pledges for a few thousand dollars to be used toward the purchase of hay, but more will be needed before the horses of Arboga are out of danger (smaller animals, having different nutritional needs than horses, currently have enough feed available).

    If you want to pledge a bale of hay, or a ton, or even a truck load (or the funds to purchase same), it will make a big difference to the horses of Arboga. If it were YOU instead of them needing the help, wouldn't you want someone just like YOU to help?

    HorseAid is coordinating its feed supply efforts with the local (to our HQ's) feed company (ALL the horse feed and hay in and around Arboga was destroyed) Lomita Feed - 310.326.4738, donations of cash can be made directly to the feed supplier who will credit it to the "Arboga Horse Fund" (all funds are being administered by EARS and are 100% tax deductible). Feed currently has to be trucked in from distant areas and even other states -- please do what you can for the horses of Arboga.

    Contacts:

    HorseAid's local "Arboga Horse Fund" feed supplier is: Lomita Feed (Lomita, CA) - 310.326.4738

    Yuba City "Arboga Horse Fund" feed supplier: Sutter Butte Feed (Yuba City, CA) - 916.673.5789

    Aly Even, Area Coordinator, UAN - 1.800.440.EARS

    Maggie Dee, Bay Area Liaison, UAN - 510.427.1219

    HorseAid - 310.719.9094

    Source: UAN, EARS, CNN, HorseAid



    Horse Cruelty Case vs. the Legal System

    STATE of CALIFORNIA vs. VALTER

    The following is a detailed description of allegations against one Tom Valter, a convicted felon, who was convicted based on the following allegations:

    Tom Valter was "training" a one time Pan Am Games dressage horse, "Zooloog", to perform the Grand Prix movement piaffe in which the horse basically trots in place. Zooloog reacted to this torture with physical convulsions, his mouth bleeding from Valter's constant jerking on the chain, eyes bulging, and heart rate almost exploding. Prior to this Valter had used whips with nails and tacks which penetrated the flesh of the horse, returning the horse to his groom whose job was to wash the blood off and apply medication to his wounds before returning him to his 10x10 stall where he was confined until the next day when he would endure another "treatment." Valter's assistant described Valter as enjoying this exercise, becoming agitated and impatient before it (while waiting for everyone at the stable to leave), and feeling a rush, exhilaration, or "drug high" afterwards.

    Valter had trained and previously successfully competed Zooloog with the use of steroids. He then sold him in 1991 to Katie Thompson & Peggy Arnone of Las Vegas for $190,000.00. After a few weeks the horse began to deteriorate mentally and physically as a result of being taken off the steroids -- suffered several injuries & surgeries, and ultimately broke down. Arnone was advised by several professional reputable dressage trainers in California, as well as several veterinarians, that the horse was unable to perform without pain due to a vertebral injury. Arnone returned the horse to Valter with a demand that he rehabilitate the horse so that she could recoup her investment. Zooloog was also a failure as a breeding stallion due to the steroids so Arnone's plan was to sell him as a Grand Prix competitor.

    Valter's philosophy is one of increasing the level of pain of resistance to exceed the pain of performance so that the horse will choose the lesser pain. He restrained Zooloog from moving with physical barriers and a chain in the mouth while he repeatedly probed the horse's hindquarters with an electric shock device, repeating this exercise for 30 minutes a day over a period of three weeks. Due to the heightened sensitivity from the nerve structure in a horse's epidermal tissue, the amount of shock used in, for instance, a dog's shock collar designed to give a dog a "jolt" can put a horse on the ground.

    After a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department investigation (due to several complaints the Department had received), several witnesses testified to Valter's multiple and ongoing acts of cruelty including tying horses' heads to their chests and leaving them in their stalls overnight, shooting them in their stalls with BB guns, withholding water, and whipping horses to the ground, causing injury.

    He was formally charged on April 4, 1996, with 6 counts of Felony Animal Cruelty and 2 counts of Felony Witness Threatening, jailed, and released 4 days later on $130,000.00 bail. He was dismissed from the stable where he was training and hired at the Paddock Riding Stable in Los Angeles, CA, where he continues to use cruel training methods and threaten people who oppose him. He is backed financially in these charges by the owner of the Paddock Riding Stable, David Schmutz, whose father is a prominent L.A. attorney with the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and reputedly closely connected with or a founder of Great Western Savings Bank.


    Valter's motion to recuse the L.A. County D.A.'s office from prosecuting the case was denied and the judge commented additionally that the State had a very good case against Valter.

    Valter's financial support was reportedly coming from the owner of the Paddock Riding Stable where Valter is employed. The Paddock's owner, David Schmutz, was pressured to, and did last month resign from the board of the California Dressage Society due to his involvement with this case and other matters conflicting with CDS's best interests.


    Valter is charged with 6 felony counts of animal cruelty: penetrating a horse's flesh with a nail studded whip, cutting a horse's mouth with a chain while continually probing the animal with electric shock (daily for 30 min. per session), electric shocking a totally wet horse, tying horses' heads to their chests and leaving them that way overnight, withholding water, whipping a horse to the ground, and others. Valter is currently suspended from competition (he's a dressage trainer) by American Horse Shows Association, California Dressage Society and Federale Equestrian Internationale and has been since the charges were filed April 4, 1996. This means he is not even permitted on the grounds of a sanctioned competition.


    STATE of CALIFORNIA vs. VALTER - Final Update!

    Valter CONVICTED!
    Many, many thanks to all of you for the 100+ letters which we had asked you to send to the court in support of the maximum penalty in this case. Valter's motion for a new trial was denied and his motion to reduce the four felony convictions to misdemeanors was also denied. He was given 5 years felony probation and a $5,000.00 fine with a court order to maintain humane practices in his training of horses, a violation of which would result in his being sent to state prison. The court (and several rescue organizations, including us) will continue to monitor Tom Valter's training methods.


    On April 10, 1997, all criminal charges against Mary Anne Hogan, founder of the American Society for Animal Protection, were dismissed and permanently stricken from the record by an order signed by Judge John Albracht in Malibu. Ms. Hogan was originally incarcerated for 5 days in the L. A. County Jail (August 1995) and charged with felony grand theft and felony burglary in connection with her efforts to rescue one of Valter's victims, which she placed in an animal rescue shelter and then notified the horse's owners of the cruelty. The owners condoned the cruelty and filed criminal charges against Ms. Hogan. After an investigation the DA's office reduced the charges to misdemeanor trespass and filed 6 felony animal cruelty charges and 2 felony witness threatening charges against Valter on April 4, 1996.

    The civil lawsuit filed by Peggy Arnone and Katie Thompson against Mary Anne Hogan who rescued their horse, Zooloog, from Valter's torture has also been dismissed. Contributions to offset the massive legal expenses incurred by Mary Anne Hogan and other costs of this rescue effort may be sent to: American Society for Animal Protection, 29201 Heathercliff Road, Suite 118, Malibu CA 90265. Note that IGHA/HorseAid does not receive any of the contributions either directly or indirectly.


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