Rancho Santa Fe

Animal Rights Group Sues for Records after Horse Death in Rancho Santa Fe

Between 40 and 50 horses allegedly had been receiving substandard care at the ranch

An animal rights group is suing San Diego County's Department of Animal Services to obtain records surrounding the alleged neglect of dozens of horses — one of whom died — at a Rancho Santa Fe property earlier this year.

The Los Angeles Alliance for Animals seeks records regarding an investigation that occurred in March, in which the county's Department of Animal Services received complaints about the care of horses at a ranch on Artesian Road.

Between 40 and 50 horses allegedly had been receiving substandard care at the ranch. The department reported that one elderly horse was found down, stuck in mud, and died before the animal could be euthanized.

The nonprofit alleges that an animal control officer responded but did not immediately euthanize the animal, leaving the horse to languish for more than two hours. Zohra Fahim, founder of Los Angeles Alliance for Animals, claimed in a statement that a bystander who identified themselves as a veterinarian offered to euthanize the horse, but was refused, "resulting in prolonged distress of the elderly mare."

The nonprofit is seeking the necropsy report for that horse and other records related to public complaints about the care of horses at the Artesian Road property.

A spokesperson with the Department of Animal Services said they have not received the lawsuit and thus could not comment on it.

The nonprofit alleges it has not received any responses to California Public Records Act requests submitted in April for those records. The department reported earlier this year that it had been engaged in ongoing communications with the property owner's private veterinarian regarding care of the animals on the property.

Animal advocates told NBC 7 in April that they witnessed horses living in filthy conditions with no shelter, their feet caked in horse droppings and with bones protruding due to a lack of food.

NBC 7 learned from animal advocates that the alleged abuse was reported on March 17. 

In April, the county revealed that investigators met with the owner and/or her veterinarian a total of eight times. Property owners have current and long-standing licenses with the California Horse Racing Board. The board released a brief statement which says in part:

“The horses in question are not located at a facility licensed by the CHRB. The CHRB will be leaving this investigation to the agencies with jurisdiction -- where the violations are alleged to have occurred  (San Diego County Sheriff and Animal Services).  Once those agencies complete their investigations, the CHRB will determine whether the individual licensed owners have violated any CHRB rules and will proceed accordingly.”

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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