Charges against Colorado Horse Rescue Operator Pending

A Colorado woman could face multiple criminal charges after Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden seized animals, including 16 allegedly malnourished horses, from her Animal Angels Horse Rescue ranch near Fort Collins on Dec. 29.

According to Larimer County Sheriff's Office Investigator Rita Servin, 12 counts of animal cruelty are pending against Alesha Matchett, operator of Animal Angels Horse Rescue, in connection with the seizure. Formal charges could be filed by Jan. 9, Servin said.

"We're pressing charges on all animals with a body condition rating of 2 or less," Servin said.

In addition to the horses, ponies, and donkeys, county authorities seized five llamas, five pygmy goats, and a pig.

According to Servin, Larimer County authorities became involved in the case on Christmas Eve when Matchett contacted the sheriff's office to complain that three horses and a quantity of hay had been stolen from her by Margaret DeSarno, a volunteer at the Colorado Thoroughbred Rescue in Wellington, Colo.

DeSarno said she was able to produce bills of sale from Matchett for two of the horses, offered to return the third, and that she had transferred ownership of the horses to the Colorado Horse Rescue. DeSarno was not charged with theft.

"After that, we began looking into the situation," Servin said.

According to veterinarian Stacy Bluhm, DVM, who examined the three horses at the Colorado Horse Rescue, two of the horses had a Body Condition Score of 1 and would not have survived more than a few weeks without intense care.

"This is the worst starvation case I've ever seen," Bluhm said. "There is no medical reason for their condition."

Colorado Horse Rescue Executive Director Hildy Armour said years of humane agencies' concerns about Matchett's operation culminated in this seizure.

Matchett told The Horse she was seeking legal counsel.

Meanwhile, Armour said the horses in her care are gaining weight and responding to care.

According to Servin, the seized horses will remain in the sheriff's legal custody until they can be adopted into qualified homes.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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