Horses Removed from North Carolina Farm during Cruelty Probe

Thirteen horses are in foster care and 41 horses' care is being monitored as part of an ongoing investigation in Sampson County, North Carolina.

Sergeant Jessica Kittrell, of the Sampson County Sheriff's Department Animal Control Division, said deputies followed up on a tip involving horses running at large in the Dunn area of Sampson County on June 11.

“After executing a search warrant on June 12, I found 54 horses in all” located on the property, Kittrell said.

All the horses were allegedly malnourished, and had body condition scores of 3 and below, she said.

The property owner subsequently surrendered 13 horses, Kittrell said.

“I went after the 13 that were in the worst shape and we are monitoring the remaining horses,” Kittrell said.

Six of the surrendered horses are in the care of the U.S. Equine Rescue League chapter that serves Sampson County, Kittrell said, while the other seven horses are under Sampson County Animal Control care.

Charges in the case are pending, Kittrell said.

“The investigation is ongoing,” she said.

Kittrell said all 54 horses were either allegedly rescued in various stages of maltreatment or were allegedly given to the property owner for care. Some owners were allegedly paying the property owner for their horses' care, she said.

“People need to know that about these places before they support a rescue or give their horse to a rescue,” Kittrell said.

Jennifer Williams, PhD, equine behaviorist, president of the Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society, and author of the book How to Start and Run a Rescue, said owners should visit a rescue before placing their animals in its care.

“Never rely on what other people say or what's on a pretty website,” Williams said.

Williams also recommends owners and donors view animals at the rescue to evaluate their condition.

“Horses should be in varying stages of rehabilitation, so there should be healthy horses on the premises,” she said.

In addition, all the animals at a rescue should receive routine veterinary care, Williams said, and rescues should have a care schedule that operators are willing to share.

“But if operators can't tell you what kind of routine care animals are receiving, they are probably not doing it,” Williams said.

She also says owners should also ask questions of rescue operators, local veterinarians, and local sheriff's departments to gauge a rescue's reputation.

“For example, if none of the local veterinarians know this rescue or if they refuse to make calls at the rescue, there may be a problem,” Williams said. “Likewise, you want to ask the sheriff's office if they have had any complaints about the rescue.”

Finally, Williams said rescues must meet specific guidelines to achieve tax-exempt or 501(c)(3) status. But some claim this tax-exempt status without actually having the paperwork to prove it, she said. So she recommends that owners ask to see pertinent financial statements and other corporate papers before lending support to or placing an animal with a rescue.

“If they have this tax-exempt status, they are happy to show their financials to you,” Williams said.

Kittrell also suggested that owners contact their local animal control department should they need help caring for their animals.

“We are a good place to go first for help or resources,” Kittrell said. “That's what we're here for.”

While the investigation continues, Kittrell said anyone with information about the case or who has placed a horse for care in Sampson County or nearby should call the Sampson County Sheriff's Office at 910/592-1151.

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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