Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Group says 3 horses being mistreated

Silent Voices Equine Rescue looks to law enforcement for help

Express Staff Writer

Evidence presented by a group of concerned local citizens last week showed apparent continued lack of feeding of three horses south of Bellevue, an issue that garnered public attention in the spring.

Silent Voices Equine Rescue hosted the event Thursday, Aug. 27, at the Blaine County Community Campus. About 50 people attended to hear the latest update on the horses' situation. The group is seeking to have the horses seized and charges filed against the owner.

The group was created this summer by Doro Lohmann, a local horse trainer, and Bellevue resident Julie Lawson, who maintain that the trio of horses have been subject to starvation and neglect since 2006, including the past six months during which local and state officials have been involved.

In attendance at the meeting were Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, Blaine County Commission Chairman Larry Schoen, Idaho State Department of Agriculture Animal Health Inspector Kelly Mortensen and Deputy Attorney General Angela Kaufmann, assigned to the state Department of Agriculture.

A timeline presented by Silent Voices showed the horses' "body condition score" from February through August. The score is on a scale of 1 to 9, with 1 indicating that an animal is weak or near death and 9 that a horse is obese to the point of interfering with body function. A score of 4 represents a healthy horse. In February, Mortenson gave two of the horses a rating of 2.5 and the third a 3.5.

According to a case report drawn up by the Department of Agriculture, Mortensen and Blaine County Animal Control Officer Kevin McMullin met with the owner of the horses in April. The owner told them the horses were being cared for adequately, the report indicates.

However, Mortensen's second report, done later in April, showed a decline in the body condition score for each of the animals. This time, the horses were given scores of 1.5, 2 and 2.5.

Another check in May showed enough improvement in the horses' conditions that Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling decided no charges would be filed against the owner, but that their health would continue to be monitored.

Mortensen said the county can seize the horses if the county prosecutor determines that it would be possible to prosecute the owner.

In mid-August, the horses registered body scores of 3 to 4, but Lawson contended that the test was administered by the owner's veterinarian and therefore the scores may not be accurate.

Lohmann showed a picture dated Aug. 12 that showed a horse with its ribs and hipbones clearly visible through its skin. She said the Blaine County Prosecutor's Office has asked the group to present the picture, along with other evidence, to help it make a determination of whether to bring charges against the owner.

Jaquet agreed with Lohmann that the state statute regulating protection of horses needs work, especially in determining whether enforcement should fall to the state or local level.

Jon Duval:

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