California Man Charged in Animal Cruelty Case

A California man is facing multiple animal cruelty charges in connection with the alleged maltreatment of more than 50 horses on his Lassen County ranch.

Beth DeCaprio, founder of the equine rescue and rehabilitation facility The Grace Foundation of Northern California, said that her agency along with Lassen County animal control authorities began investigating conditions at the Whispering Pines Ranch in Susanville earlier this year. The probe revealed a herd of horses living on the property without food, DeCaprio said. The carcasses of 25 dead horses were also discovered at the ranch, DeCaprio said.

In April, the Foundation removed 20 horses from the property after ranch owner Dwight Bennett voluntarily relinquished those animals, DeCaprio said. In August, the Foundation removed another 36 animals from the property. Those animals remain under Bennett's ownership, but are in the Foundation's protective custody, DeCaprio said.

Veterinary examinations revealed that at the time of the removal, the 56 horses scored an average of between 2 and 3 on the Henneke Body Condition Scale, DeCaprio said. DeCaprio said 18 of the mares removed from the property are pregnant and another 11 could be in foal.

A spokesperson for the Lassen County Sheriff's Department said that on Oct. 24 Bennett was arrested and charged with numerous counts of animal cruelty. He is also facing with drug-related charges including possession of a controlled substance.

Bennett is being held at the Lassen County Jail. He was unavailable for comment.

Since their removal all 56 animals are responding well to rehabilitative care, DeCaprio said.

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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