Equine Rescue

Wild Horse Sanctuary Herd Impounded

Main story by Pat Raia as published on TheHorse.com

“Good and Bad News.  Good News, the abuser will no longer be in charge of the care, or lack of care, of the former wild horses.  They will be fed, with your help, assessed and adopted out.  Bad News, there will be a time limit, allegedly, of December 1 where remaining horses will be auctioned off and that is when the kill buyers will circle and attempt to make a quick, bloody buck by selling the horses off to slaughter.

Yesterday, a letter allegedly from the State’s Attorney, Steve Aberle was circulated among the advocacy, it’s validity has yet to be verified but the sources have been trustworthy in the past:

The horses will not be returned to Karen without adequate guarantees that there will be adequate food, care, shelter and funds to maintain the horses.  This means that many or all of the horses will probably have to be adopted or sold at auction.  Dewey County and Ziebach County are not in a position to provide for long term care of the horses.

Any animals that are not adopted will be sold at auction.  This means that they will probably be purchased by those that will take the horses to slaughter.  We would prefer to not see this happen, so the Dewey County Sheriff is keeping a list o f people who are willing to adopt some of the horses.  If you or your organization is interested in preventing some of the horses from going to auction,  I would encourage you to contact the Dewey County Sheriff to let him know that you are interested in adopting horses if we reach that point.

The deadline for completing adoptions and proceeding to auction is December 1, 2016, so this does not leave a lot of time for those who want to adopt to step forward.


It is imperative that the horses be fed and there are several agencies/organizations set up to do so, likewise there are sanctuaries working in the background to find homes for the horses in question.  Please stay tuned, your help will be needed.” ~ R.T.




“Sussman voluntarily agreed to the impoundment, court records said…”

57ef2233a898e-imageAuthorities in two South Dakota counties have impounded hundreds of horses residing at a wild horse sanctuary operated by the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB). The impoundment is part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of maltreatment at the facility.

Earlier this month former ISPMB employee Colleen Burns accused sanctuary operator Karen Sussman of maltreating horses at the facility and alleged that 30 animals had died of malnutrition. Sussman denied the accusations.

A representative for the Dewey County, South Dakota, Sheriff’s Department said an investigation was underway.

On Oct. 11, Dewey County State’s Attorney Steven Aberle and Ziebach County State’s Attorney Cheryl Laurenz-Bigue appeared before Circuit Court Judge Jerome Eckrich to request that the mustangs, burros, and other horses at the sanctuary be placed in the care of county law enforcement authorities, court records said.

Eckrich ruled that there was “good cause for the immediate impoundment of all” equids at the facility and ordered the animals living at ISPMB be immediately placed in the custody of both counties’ law enforcement agencies.

“The animals were placed in the care of the Dewey and Ziebach counties sheriffs’ departments because ISPBM was located in the two counties,” Aberle said.

Sussman voluntarily agreed to the impoundment, court records said.

Eckrich’s order states that the animals will continue to reside on ISPMB property, but Sussman will be relieved of their care.

“The Dewey County and Ziebach County Sheriffs shall purchase sufficient (feed) for said animals and shall employ any and all persons and equipment they determine necessary for the care for said animals,” court records said.

Sussman was unavailable for comment.

Aberle said the exact number of horses in the impounded herd remains unknown, pending an assessment.

“The (animals’) condition is also being assessed,” Aberle said.

No charges have been filed in the case, he said.


20 replies »

  1. As much as I’d hate to see the horses starve, I sure don’t want them to wind up at a slaughterhouse either. If the county sheriffs cannot provide them with long-term care why don’t they ship them to an SPCA, humane society or other facility that can? If that’s too big of a burden for one place, put them in the care of several facilities. After all, you’d think that the whole purpose behind impoundment is to rescue these animals from a grisly fate.


    • Starry this is where the county can not afford this expense. you really do not want the Humane society in there. it is better for the horses for R.T and others like that to be in this. better for everyone.


  2. Gentle Spirit Horse and Rescue Sanctuary is taking some of the sickest horses. It’s been on the news almost daily because it’s in my state. It’s so awful. I hope they can find more rescues to help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thank Gentle Spirit Horse and Rescue Sanctuary for being there for the horses! having to deal with this in Montana, and living it for over 9 months I know how hard you and them will be working! Bless you and them.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer, have any necropsy results been published, or vet reports of what is the cause of these deaths? Surely starvation is the main cause, but Karen Sussman left the door open, hinting at other causes. It would be good to make public definitive information if it is known. I’m also wondering if there have been any more burial pits found.


  3. Is there any way to get Carol Walker (or other great photographers) out there to get photos and info online about individual horses that will need to be adopted out? Can’t imagine the sheriff’s departments will have the time or resources to do this.


  4. The SD states attorney called me last night, and we spent two and a half hours discussing this situation and possible solutions for the horses We are working on a better plan- but none of the options are ideal. Still gathering information. I’ll be working with the SD officials throughout this ordeal, and will provide details of a plan as soon as I can get it put together. Am currently still deeply involved in helping equine victims of Hurricane Matthew- some of which are still completely stranded on railroad tracks, in pens with water rising, in barns that are almost submerged, etc. Anyone who’d like to help the SD wild horses is welcome to watch my page for updates on how we think we can best help prevent the slaughter of hundreds of them.


  5. The ISMPB website mentions that, in 2014, they took in an entire herd of 82 Sheldon mustangs (Catnip herd), the only breeding herd left of Sheldon horses in their Conservation program. Will they (along with all the others) be protected from slaughter since the Sheldon wild horses have since been wiped out?


    • Unfortunately no. To begin with the Sheldons were to covered by the WFHBA and, even if they were, once adopted (i.e. sent to a sanctuary) they are stripped of any legal protection under the WFHBA.

      So, in essence, they’re as vulnerable to slaughter as any domestic horse


  6. I have been challenging advocacy’s located in the states where the herds came from originally to organise to distribute them back to their home territory where they will be valued, reno for the virginia range horses NM for the white sands arizona for the gilas and N, calif nevada and oregon for the sheldons/catnips..Just start somewhere and try to get things moving..I remember gv richardson was once involved in trying to get a sanctuary set up to showcase NM wild horses and it fizzled..contact him again..SD is the worst place you can imagine to stage an auction-anytime- but especially in their harsh winter

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I imagine most of these horses are not BLM branded and will be impossible to track once gone from ISPMB, you won’t be able to distinguish who they are and where they came from, and they won’t let you do this in LTH facilities..you take a semiload from any and all hmas..at auction you will have to bid against the slaughter buyers, speak for your loads now before any auction


  8. For starters….

    The Herd Areas in New Mexico that have been ZEROED OUT should be given back. There’s plenty of room there and they shouldn’t have been removed in the first place…THAT’S where the outrage should be directed.



    Last Gather



    Click to access 2016_HAHMA_Stats_0316_for%20web.pdf

    Liked by 2 people

    • Louie, agreed! Even if temporary, relocating the healthy horses as complete bands onto “empty” lands would provide them a better shot at survival while people figure out the next steps. It’s pretty much past breeding season so this move wouldn’t add many (if any) more foals than are already in utero. Why couldn’t a separate funding “pot” be provided to the BLM, to which citizens could donate strictly for these horses, for one year? It has been documented the BLM paid out $140,000 to ship horses to Tom Davis for slaughter, so why can’t they be expected to pay a similar amount back into proper wild horse care, supplemented by any public donations?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jean, there are already horses there, not sure if the land can absorb hundreds more, and as we know, BLM has made it impossible for Pickens to generate any cash flow this year. The emptied HMAs would be a better temporary option for these horses, there are hundreds of emptied HMAs in the west and surely (?) some have no livestock grazing permits on them. At least family bands could remain together and have enough ground to feed themselves for a year or so while the ISPMB dysfunction is sorted out.


  9. Karen was asking for a donation on the 14th a day after she agreed to impound her horses. What is going on here? Also what is happening to her research? This is all so terrible for the horses. Karen writes:

    “ISPMB shelters over 600 wild horses at its conservation center in Lantry, South Dakota. Our historic herds were rescued from slaughter nearly 16 years ago and we have studied and preserved the integrity of their bloodlines ever since. The value of our research can truly help save wild horses and burros in America.”


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