Wild Horse Sanctuary Herd Impounded

Authorities in two South Dakota counties have impounded hundreds of horses residing at a wild horse sanctuary operated by the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB). The impoundment is part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of maltreatment at the facility.

Earlier this month former ISPMB employee Colleen Burns accused sanctuary operator Karen Sussman of maltreating horses at the facility and alleged that 30 animals had died of malnutrition. Sussman denied the accusations.

A representative for the Dewey County, South Dakota, Sheriff's Department said an investigation was underway.

On Oct. 11, Dewey County State’s Attorney Steven Aberle and Ziebach County State’s Attorney Cheryl Laurenz-Bigue appeared before Circuit Court Judge Jerome Eckrich to request that the mustangs, burros, and other horses at the sanctuary be placed in the care of county law enforcement authorities, court records said.

Eckrich ruled that there was “good cause for the immediate impoundment of all" equids at the facility and ordered the animals living at ISPMB be immediately placed in the custody of both counties' law enforcement agencies.

“The animals were placed in the care of the Dewey and Ziebach counties sheriffs' departments because ISPBM was located in the two counties,” Aberle said.

Sussman voluntarily agreed to the impoundment, court records said.

Eckrich's order states that the animals will continue to reside on ISPMB property, but Sussman will be relieved of their care.

“The Dewey County and Ziebach County Sheriffs shall purchase sufficient (feed) for said animals and shall employ any and all persons and equipment they determine necessary for the care for said animals,” court records said.

Sussman was unavailable for comment.

Aberle said the exact number of horses in the impounded herd remains unknown, pending an assessment.

“The (animals') condition is also being assessed,” Aberle said.

No charges have been filed in the case, he 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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