We hope this will answer any questions you may have on the nature of our involvement. Thanks again for all the support!
1. Why isn’t law enforcement removing these animals?
Unless an animal is near death or in imminent distress, authorities are bound by law to go through a process before they can or will seize any animal.
The Stevens County Sheriff’s Department was very open and forth coming when we approached them. Reports initially came in of starving horses abandoned at a property without power. We’d like to just review the facts as the law has them:
Deputies were able to make contact with the owner at the property, at some point nearing the start of their investigation. They had found the owner out visiting her horses during feeding time. Since that time the owner has kept in regular contact with authorities. Reportedly, she was not living onsite, but was visiting the property daily to provide food and check water.
That eliminated abandonment in their investigation.
Law enforcement cannot pull the horses if their being provided food (by anyone). It’s different with each county and area of the country but usually at least a couple of days documented without food must be part of any case (unless the animals are in imminent danger). Before contact was made with the owner, local Samaritans were trying to help until these horses the owner could be found. We understand neighbors had reported abandoned, skinny horses and these Samaritans begun to help by hauling food and water out to the property daily. The owner claims she had never stopped feeding the horses. In addition, a hay supplier has confirmed the owner has been buying 5-6 bales of hay at a time, on a regular basis. With deputies pulling up on a surprise visit and witnessing the owner feeding, the Samaritans feeding, and the hay supplier’s confirmation that the owner has be active in purchasing hay, police were able to confirm the horses were receiving food in one way or another. This eliminated starvation or lack of food in their investigation.
Unless horses have been without water for a number of days, it’s our experience they won’t pull horses. There has been no proof given to authorities that the horses have gone without water for a substantial amount of time. The horses have also not displayed desperation in front of deputies to show they have gone without water. This eliminated lack of water in their investigation.
Law enforcement doesn’t usually pull animals for strictly weight issues, until they are close to skeletal. The reason for that, is that an array of health problems can cause weight loss (in pets or people). By law owners have the right to troubleshoot health problems before seizing animals is legal. Inspecting the 4 horses, these are the weight evaluations as the law sees it: First, the Pony is at a very healthy weight. The second and third horses are thinner but still at acceptable weight. The fourth horse (the white horse) is very skinny, but not to the point they can intervene paired with the factors listed above. With the pony’s weight, there is evidence that food has been provided in some way for a substantial amount of time. They can only do their best to persuade the owner to begin troubleshooting health issues and feeding more at this time. *If* the horses are getting enough food, weight issues can attributed to sharp teeth points interfering, parasites interfering, or a host of other medical issues that can get in the way of weight gain or maintenance. This weight issue has given reason for the sheriff’s department to encourage and persuade the owner to reach out for help, however it’s not enough to warrant further action at this time, within the bounds of our laws.
e. Allegations of Prior Abuse:
The information deputies gave us was that this owner has not had any reports or charges in abuse, they have only been called out in the past for loose horses and bad fencing.
2. Why are we helping this owner?
Our goal in any situation is to find the best way to help any horse in need but we have to work within the boundaries of the law. As many know we don’t have legal jurisdiction to remove animals or force owners to act as we wish they would. If we come on too strong, we can push owners away and lose any ability to help animals in need. The best way we know how to bridge any situation like this, is through genuine compassion. We’re willing and able to assist and follow through as long as this owner is willing to have us.
3. Are the horses getting food?
Yes. We’ve delivered a 90 day supply of hay this week. In addition to our delivery, the owner had grain and some hay left. We happen to know the owners hay supplier and were able to confirm she’s been consistently buying 5-6 bales at a time, because she hadn’t been able to afford to buy larger amounts of hay all at once.
4. Vet Care
As far as medical care goes, we’ve already given wormer to the horses, and hope this will be a first step in improving weight. During our own preliminary health check we were able to feel some sharp points in the white horse’s mouth and believe this could be a contributing factor to her weight loss as well. We’ll be working with the owner to trailer the horses into town for any needed medical and dental care. With the holiday schedule, storm, and road conditions, we’ll be bringing the horses into the vet after the holiday.
5. Are the horses warm enough?
While on site, we haven’t seen the horses shivering or showing any signs of being cold. The owner is living on site again and will be able to monitor the horses. If the need arises blankets are being provided by Rough Start.
6. Do the horses have shelter?
There are many angles to how we’ve seen this question raised. We hope to answer them all:
A. Washington State Law: HB2674, section 4 states: “A person responsible for caring for livestock or poultry must provide the animals access to sufficient shelter from the weather when it can reasonably be expected to be necessary to maintain the health of animals of that species, breed, sex, and age, raised using the applicable production method.” ….As you can see, the type of shelter deemed necessary is open for interpretation according to Washington law.
B. Although there is no building, there is a thick tree covering in the pasture that the horses are able to use to get out of the wind and weather. By law, trees can be considered an acceptable shelter in Washington state.
C. There have been questions about a barn type of shelter that’s located outside of the pasture. It’s in disrepair, the horses are not provided access for safety reasons.
D. We sure wish we had the resources to leave a horse shelter “under the Christmas tree” for homes in need. Unfortunately the rumors are false, we have no plans to donate or build a shelter on this property.
The stock tank’s heater is turned on for the horse’s drinking water. The owner was in the process of pulling resources together when we got involved and has restored electricity to the property herself. In addition, we’ve been given a donation specifically to cover 3 months of future electric bills.
8. Drug/Alcohol Questions
We just met this owner but she gave us no reason to suspect drug or alcohol use, nor has the authorities given any information to indicate this.
9. Deleting or blocking
We’re always ok with calm respectful dialog on any questions our supporters have. If there are issues that someone feels we’re missing, we encourage respectful, calm troubleshooting through private messaging. However, we’ve deleted comments and blocked some from our Facebook page because of swearing and bringing concerns in such a heated and foul manner. We want to protect our youth program kids, and supporters by keeping our page respectful and clean. More importantly to encourage our youth program in the good deeds they’ve done and not be discouraged by inappropriate and harsh comments.
10. Plan of action
As mentioned above, we’ve delivered a 3 month hay supply, 3 months of electricity paid, wormed the horses, given a preliminary health check, mended fences, cleaned up the pasture, provided a stock tank heater, and blankets made available. Our plans going forward is to bring the horses in for a veterinary checkup and cover costs for the office visit and any teeth floating necessary. We will be checking in on the horse’s progress as we’re able to schedule visits with the owner.
As a general rule, not limited to this situation only, we can only help where we’re invited. Our goal is to keep horses with owners who love them and provide a hand up when the people of our community fall on tough times. However, as a last resort if we see alarming circumstances arise and are not able to help correct or remedy a situation privately we do have a long standing policy to report to authorities.
Please keep this owner and her horses in your prayers. We’re glad to be a cheerleader as they work through these tough times. Last but not least, we want to thank our supporters and volunteers again and again. Without contributions and each of you standing behind us, we wouldn’t have been able to give this Christmas gift.
The team at Rough Start Horse Rescue