They Warehouse Horses, Don’t They?

Today you’re going to see something that’s highly unusual: an “undercover” video shot at a Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) “animal care” facility. This amateur video was shot in February at the Duchess Horse Sanctuary in Douglas County, Oregon. HSUS created Duchess two years ago, following a $3.5 million donation by a private foundation.

Here’s what HSUS writes about the care it claims to give the horses housed on this 1,120-acre piece of land:

The Duchess Sanctuary is committed to providing the highest standards of equine care and basic loving kindness that these horses—and any future residents—deserve.

Are they measuring up? You be the judge.

Pay special attention to the muddy conditions in the video. Is it all that bad? Maybe, and maybe not. But HSUS is currently pushing felony charges on an Arkansas woman, largely for allowing her horses to walk in the mud. More on that later.

Earlier this month, we solicited comments about this video from a few noted horsemen and an equine veterinarian. Here’s what they said:

The small amount of ground appears to be pretty well trampled by those horses that are walking in the mud, thus negating any further growth of forage, if in fact the owners want to pasture the horses in the future. It has the look of a feedlot rather than a free roaming pasture. The conditions of the horses appear to be on the “hippy” side which may appear to be a lower plan of nutrition than they need. The broken limbs and fallen down trees should have been removed from this facility before any horses were turned into it because of the possibility of puncture wounds with the possible onset of tetanus and sure death of the wounded horse.

Dr. John Radosevich, DVM

I would be embarrassed to have my horses running in a pasture with dead trees and mud where injury could easily occur.

Tim Mcquay, National Reining Horse Association Hall of Fame Inductee

HSUS’s whole byline on the Duchess Sanctuary is that it will be a model for livestock management. As a life-long horseman, I can say that they need a new manager. The hazards and lack of management this video shows are rain rot, scratches, hoof problems and puncture wounds from fallen trees, among other injuries, due to limbs laying like pixie sticks with too many horses in a small feedlot-type area. This is not a model situation for the care of horses. I wonder what the Canadian donors of the money to run this ranch will say when they see this video. I’m sure this is not what they had in mind.

Dave Duquette, Executive Director of the United Horsemen’s Front

It’s worth noting that the above video is just 40 or 45 seconds of video, out of the roughly five minutes of film that we got from the undercover videographer. We did this quite on purpose, since it’s the same sort of limited view that HSUS routinely allows the public to see when it’s stoking an artificial scandal about egg farms. In other words, HSUS is fond of breaking down its hidden-camera movies to show “the worst of the worst,” without ever releasing the un-cut videos. Good for the goose, good for the gander. You get the idea.

Now about all that mud: There seems to be a little bit of a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality at work inside HSUS. Consider the case of Denisa Malott.

Denisa owns an Arkansas trail-riding business. She’s worked with horses for more than 40 years. And in November, she was charged with 25 felony counts of animal cruelty following a raid that appears to have been managed (if not orchestrated) by HSUS. We can’t possibly improve on the excellent summary of the case that Chuck Jolley wrote last month, so please refer to his article for all the details.

HSUS put out a press release at the time, misstating where Denisa’s horses were taken, and claiming all sorts of mistreatment of the animals. None of it seems to be true. (I have photos of the horses, taken shortly after the raid. I’ll be writing more about her case tomorrow.)

The one charge that seems to be “sticking” against Denisa is that her horses were standing in some mud when they were seized. If that’s true, it’s fair to ask how many felonies the Duchess Sanctuary’s managers (and HSUS itself) should be facing.

My understanding is that Denisa has a court date next week. It’ll be interesting to see how this all shakes out, especially since the District Attorney has already offered to drop all the HSUS-inspired felony charges if she pleads guilty to a single misdemeanor. (She’s not playing ball.) And according to the Arkansas Horse Council, HSUS is “scurrying around trying to disconnect themselves from the case.”

The video above is publicly available on YouTube. Feel free to forward it far and wide.

UPDATE: This is what HSUS would like you to believe the Duchess Sanctuary looks like.