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The following is an article from The Horse.
Veterinarians must know how to properly document findings and avoid destroying evidence while still putting the horse’s welfare first.
How a veterinarian goes about examining and treating allegedly abused horses can mean the difference between a successful or unsuccessful case against the owner. He or she must know how to properly document all findings and avoid destroying evidence while still putting the horse’s welfare first.
Nicole Eller, DVM, a Minnesota-based field shelter veterinarian with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Field Investigations and Response team, described the veterinarian’s unique role in animal crime scene investigations during her presentation at the 2016 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 3-7 in Orlando, Florida.
First, she reviewed the basics of evidence identification, collection, and preservation. “Evidence is generally defined as anything that can demonstrate or disprove a fact in contention,” said Eller. In equine abuse investigations, this can include anything from photos of a horse’s injuries or body condition to the moldy hay in his feeder.
Veterinarians must view these cases through the lens of someone looking for and collecting evidence. As the equine expert, the veterinarian will recognize key pieces of evidence that other investigators might overlook.
Eller then described the four phases of processing an animal crime scene.
Phase 1: Document the condition of the facility or farm upon arrival
The area will most likely have already been secured by law enforcement and documented via photos and video by the time the veterinarian arrives on the scene.
Phase 2: Document each animal and its environment
The veterinarian will conduct what Eller called “critical triage” during the initial walk-through of the property.
“Critical triage is a rapid visual sorting of animals for treatment priority,” she said. “It’s done to identify animals in immediate need of medical care.”
The practitioner should classify horses needing immediate care as “red animals.” Eller said this might include horses with open fractures, seizures, hemorrhaging, etc.
“Document everything as fast as possible before treating, because the live animal is evidence, and treatment alters evidence,” she said.
After caring for the red animals, Eller said the veterinarian should perform a second walk-through and color-code the remaining animals as yellow (in need of treatment before transport), green (ready for transport), or blue (exhibiting signs of infectious disease).
“Given how horses are typically housed, if one has infectious disease, they may all have it,” said Eller. “But if a few are obviously infectious, you would want to handle them last and have an isolation area set up at the clinic or place where the horses are being transported.”
Once the horses have been documented and tended to, then it’s time to document their living conditions and environment. “Demonstrate how that environment may have directly affected the animal,” she said, including taking photographs or directing the person who is.
Any dead horses, carcasses, or skeletal remains on the property must also be catalogued as physical evidence. Once all horses have been removed from the property, the veterinarian should perform a more thorough documentation of the living space. Note the dimensions of each enclosure or shelter as well as how many horses shared each space, said Eller. Take mid-range and close-up photos of “any receptacles, presence or lack of good and water, quality of food and water, shelter and fence construction and possible hazards, feces, and urine,” she added.
A heartbreaking series of photos were posted of the starving horses at the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros property. These horses and burros need your help in ways more than sending money. Contact the Dewey County Sheriff’s department for ways you can help.
This is a repost of an article by Ashley Parker at ratemyhorsepro.com
Claims of more than 30 wild horses dying horrific starvation deaths fall upon a South Dakota charity tasked with preservation.
“It’s heartbreaking and devastating. There aren’t words when you’re here,” says Colleen Burns, the former senior project manager for the International Society for the Protection of Mustang and Burros (ISPMB).
Burns was fired Thursday after going public regarding the horses’ plight in Lantry. The 501(c)3 organization is home to approximately 650 horses.
Video shows horses suffering from what Burns says are various forms of neglect including untrimmed hooves so bad they can barely walk. The horses are not supplied with the necessary farrier care. Others are unable to rise due to their weakened state from a lack of nutrition as the land is barren. Their bones protrude from their slight bodies. A stallion’s penis is unable to retract after injury and is left without care along with a mare’s visibly broken ankle.
ISPMB’s website states its goal is to prevent the elimination of unique wild herds with a model management program for wild horses. “I think its a miracle [ISPMB] lasted this long,” Burns says, adding the organization needed to start a horse management program 10-years ago because the group is in deep.
The charity’s lack of financial resources led some local hay suppliers to halt hay deliveries to ISPMB after debts went unpaid.
Burns says horses began dying in mid-June. She took her concerns to the non-profit’s long-time president, Karen Sussman, who is responsible for the management decisions surrounding the care of the four herds.
“[Sussman] knew full well what was going on,” Burns tells Rate My Horse PRO. “She acted shocked. It was like there was a disconnect between her and her understanding of what was happening.”
Sussman witnessed the horses’ deaths or gave instructions for euthanasia by gunshot, Burns says. “[Sussman] wouldn’t allow anyone to make decisions regarding the horses, but herself.”
Those decisions didn’t allow for veterinary intervention.
By late August, Burns reports the once sporadic hay deliveries stopped. She took her concerns to ISPMB Board Member Cheryl Rowe of Rapid City. Rowe came to the property two days later and documented the neglect.
Rowe resigned at an emergency board meeting on September 4, 2016 after her attempts to discuss the horses’ dire needs were reportedly seen as an attack on Sussman.
Burns says a tongue-lashing is what she got from Sussman and ISPMB Treasurer/Secretary, Bobbie Meyzen, of Redding, CT. “I tried to affect change by taking it to the board and instead I was scolded by [Mezyen] like a school child.”
Meyzen allegedly admitted to Burns she knew about the horses dying from starvation.
Jill Irvin, of Chandler, AZ serves as ISPMB’s Director.
The state veterinarian and Dewey County Sheriff department came to the ranch mid-September. Officials are monitoring the property daily to ensure the horses are now receiving hay.
Dewey County Sheriff Leslie Mayer says the criminal investigation into the horses’ alleged neglect is ongoing.
Burns says she hopes the organization and horses survive, but admits the current regime needs a change.
Sussman is facing a charge of felony grand theft in Perkins County for allegedly writing a bad check of almost $9,400 for hay. If convicted she faces up to 10-years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
“I was gravely concerned and I took steps,” Burns says. “I love these horses.”
We did not receive a response from Sussman prior to publishing.
Note: If you would like to donate hay to the horses, local officials have established a fund.
Please send to
DEWEY COUNTY AUDITOR
PO BOX 277
TIMBER LAKE, SD 57656-0277
PLEASE MAKE PAYABLE TO DEWEY COUNTY AND MARK FOR THE ISPMB HORSE FUND.