Horse News

Judge Steps In to Save 650 Starving Horses

By LACEY LOUWAGIE as published on Court House News Service

“…came across a dead horse carcass in one pasture, and a burial pit containing at least 25 carcasses in various states of decay”

too-weak-to-standLANTRY, S.D. (CN) — A judge has stepped in to aid hundreds of horses on a wild horse sanctuary, ordering their care handed temporarily over to two South Dakota counties, after a veterinarian confirmed shocking documentation of neglect.

The Oct. 11 order came two weeks after former employee Colleen Burns drew public attention to the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros by releasing 16 pages of photos, video stills and journal entries detailing the deaths of at least 30 horses on the ranch, many of whom died of starvation this summer.

The society’s president, Karen Sussman, said in an email to “Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see,” regarding Burns’ depiction of the ranch.

But veterinarian Dr. Marc Hammrich, who investigated the ranch after receiving a complaint from Burns, categorized the horses as “neglected” in his Sept. 15 Animal Welfare Investigation Report, which was included in court documents released Tuesday.

“Immediately apparent was the lack of feed in the pen and the majority of the horses nosing through the dried manure looking for remaining hay to eat from the last feeding which was scant to nonexistent,” he wrote.

He found similar conditions in all four of the ranch’s herds, in one case noting that horses were “searching the ground for feed and in some cases eating manure.”

He came across a dead horse carcass in one pasture, and a burial pit containing at least 25 carcasses in various states of decay. Hammrich estimated that 10 percent of the ranch’s horses would not survive the winter without intervention.

Ziebach County Judge Jerome Eckrich’s 2-page impoundment order on Tuesday adopts the conditions set forth in an agreement between the county attorneys for Ziebach and Dewey counties, where the ranch is, and Sussman.

Although the 650 horses will stay on the ranch, the Ziebach and Dewey county sheriffs will oversee their care temporarily, according to the Joint Motion for Voluntary Impoundment.

However, the sheriffs require that alternative arrangements be made before winter.

“I have dedicated my life, my fortune, and my reputation to the protection of wild horses throughout the United States,” Sussman said in a statement. “More than once in my 30 years with the organization, I have personally financed our activities to feed, study, care for and protect these beautiful animals. I have dedicated the majority of my time freely, only rarely collecting a salary, and selling my personal property to provide much needed funds to the organization for hay. To accuse me of cruelty or disinterest of these wild horses, that I have dedicated my life to protecting, is both outrageous and preposterous.”

Sussman can get the horses back if she can produce a viable plan for providing adequate food, shelter and veterinary care for the next 18 months. In addition, she must provide a specific “end of life plan” for horses suffering from age, injuries or sickness.

“We have been developing an ongoing management plan which includes downsizing our herds, potential purchase of a larger property to reduce our costs of ever rising hay prices, and a long-range vision for our organization,” Sussman said.

Sussman’s plan, which must include provisions for reimbursing the county for the horses’ care, is due Oct. 27.

In the meantime, a veterinarian will inspect the horses and divide them into three groups: those that are healthy enough to survive the winter with adequate food and care, those that will require special attention to survive the winter, and those that are unlikely to survive the winter and should be euthanized.

The motion encourages Sussman to make arrangements for some of the horses to be adopted.

Any horses not adopted or returned to Sussman by Dec. 1 will be sold at a public auction.

To help feed the horses, go to:

SD Dewey County Auditor Creates Way to Donate to Starving former Wild Horses

30 replies »

  1. this plan is not in the best interest of the horses as so many will be put to death. Horrible plan. and then to have to adopt out the wild horses is cruel. They are supposed to be wild not a pet. Defeats the whole purpose of a sanctuary.


  2. Have to say yet again, where is the board of directors? They are missing in action here, and as a legal nonprofit entity this is not Karen’s private kingdom. There are oversight responsibilities required of a board and they should be held accountable.
    If for example, they had hired an onsite manager who starved hundreds of horses, they would fire that person and make a public statement about how they intend to remedy the immediate situation then prevent it happening again. That the entire focus is on Karen indicates the board was uninvolved and willingly let one passionate person run the entire organization into the ground.

    I expect the media to shed some light on these directors rather than the endless focus only on Karen. If she was allowed to sign bad checks, for instance, this is a board of directors problem. While she is the current President (has she always been?) we have to keep in mind ISPMB is a legal entity with shared legal responsibilities among its board of directors. Their complete silence is inexcusable and unethical at best.


    • While the vet report shows they put one horse down immediately, it also indicates around 10% of those alive were Henneke 1-3 rated, or something around 85 horses (in all herds, and of all ages it seems) and that abuse was evident. Without emergency feed this number would have surely increased, and soon, as winter is just around the corner. Even healthy horses become frail without enough food. In my life I’ve known of two that died while being fed in herd situations, they were not the dominant animals or were young and growing rapidly.


    • Icey, that report has proved not to be accurate from the original investigation in sept and the STATE vet who was on site on Thursday said that of 810 horses on site only 1 MAY need to be put down before winter and that 25 needed special care….out of 810 horses…is anyone going to admit that Burns presented a picture that was not accurate? yesterday the states attorney said in a conversation over the phone that the situation had been portrayed inaccurately and that horses that had died appeared to be old age and frail young ones


      • Sandra, that is surely good news, but I doubt the first DVM on site was lying in his report (linked above as part of the legal impoundment order). What happened in the intervening weeks is anyone’s guess; more horses could have died or been moved in the meantime. I have no way of knowing if Burn’s testimony is or is not accurate but three things are important for me to keep in mind here:
        1. Nobody has indicated Burns fabricated or forged her photos (the vet did find a burial pit with varying ages of carcasses).
        2. The first DVM on site indicated abuse and very thin horses, and underestimated the numbers on site.
        3. The complete silence regarding any other causes of death (no necropsy reports etc.) or any statement from the board of directors is inexcusable unless they are hiding something from the public. If as you mention the whole thing has been “portrayed inaccurately” there is very little public proof of that claim to date. If all is well, does that mean no impoundment was necessary, or that emergency feeding by two counties isn’t needed, either? Doubtful.


      • Thank you, Sandra. I have refused to believe the horses in Karen’s care would be neglected. I want to know exactly why the “former” employee was a “former” employee. If horses were suffering, what took her so long to divulge this info. As an employee, why didn’t she say something before she was a “former” employee??
        If horses live as much as possible in the wild, some will suffer as do those who actually live “free”. I am truly disgusted over the accusations and simply do not
        believe them as portrayed. I believe in Karen and the ISPMB. Will some body closer to the Dakotas investigate this “former” employee and her past??


      • Good Lord Ms Cornell, Look at the photos. Look at the long neglected hooves. Look at the bones of these poor starving horses. Heck, look at the ones that had broken legs. Open your eyes and your heart for the loss and suffering of these horses. You say “If horses live as much as possible in the wild, some will suffer”, your big word there is IF. These horses were in horrible feed lot conditions. Well, minus the feed part that is. Barren land with hundreds of horses in very small paddocks. Nothing at all like ‘in the wild’.


      • Well, SJ, I dare because I believe in Karen Sussman and the work she has done and is trying to do. I do not believe the whole story has been told. I believe Karen will be vindicated. I am sure when this happens you will be big enough to admit your error. Just for the record: how many horses have you saved??


      • How many have you saved Ms Cornell? I am right at 22 adopted and many more mentored and helped with theirs. How about you? There is nothing that woman could say that could ‘vindicate’ her for what she has done to those horses. Do you even care about the conditions they are in with her? Broken legs, starved, less than feedlot conditions. Heck the BLM looks like saints comparied to her ‘care’. What ‘work’ she has done? I don’t think starving and neglecting horses will ever be considered good work. She has been funneling off the weakest and worst off and I’ll bet trying to weasel her way out of this. But we know, we have seen what she has done. To bad you and Ms Longley are so blinded and your hearts for these poor horses are blacked by her charm. You both are just as guilty as she is. Wipe your eyes and look at the suffering she has put these horses through.


      • well, SJ, right now, since we are both older and on a fixed income, we only have 8 in our herd.I can’t even count the number we rescued over the years, starting in 1984.
        I do believe in Karen Sussman and the work she has done with the different herds. Call me what ever you would like; my loyalty is with Karen. I do believe in the end she will be vindicated and no amount of your accusing me of not defending the horses will change my mind. I just hope you will be big enough to apologize when this is all over.


      • Ms Cornell, and I must say now I feel bad for having to show you the respect I was raised with and putting the Ms in front of your name. Because you are showing those horses that have suffered under her so called ‘care’ no respect. I also feel sorry for your poor horses if you think, looking at all the pictures that have surfaced, of these poor suffering horses left to limp along on broken ankles, hooves so long they could ski on them not to mention just skin and bones. And seem to think that is an OK way to ‘care’ for horses because of some misplaced loyalty to Ms Sussman.

        She will not ever be ‘vindicated’. There is only One excuse ever possible for having horses in your care that look like that and that is you just rescued them. Which we all know she has had these horses for years. There is NO other excuse for this. So some are old? We all have fed old horses. Mine never looked like that. When they started to go down hill they were Humanely put down so as not to suffer. The ‘Apology’ needs to come from her and all that are Trying to defend her, and it needs to come Now! Again, there is No other excuse for the suffering we all have already seen. NONE! I am sure from the silence she has already bought her way out of this mess and she will very well get a free pass. But we all know the suffering she has caused these horses and we all will remember it. At least those of us with a heart and our eyes clear of shit. Pull yours out dear, get some fresh air and a towel. I have already seen enough.


    • Patricia, if you read the report Ms. Burns made public it is very clear she was raising these issues with Ms. Sussman and the ISPMB board of directors for some time while she was still employed there. She was fired soon after the report went public and one board member resigned over what that person saw on site.

      I agree there is a lot we don’t know, but that doesn’t erase what is known, regardless of any desire to be loyal to one person or another. Whistleblowers are commonly blamed for systemic organization problems they do not cause but only bring to light, which seems to be the case here.

      The silence from the board of directors (in my view) is toxic and does not reflect at all well on ISPMB or their work. They operate as a public charity and have an obligation to be open and honest to the public in exchange for the privileges their nonprofit status allows.


  3. This was sent to me. I had not previously known anything about this organization. From what Sandra posted, one of the members was going to be involved in taking some of the Horses from ISPMB

    Proposal of Ovarian Ligation August 24, 2015
    From: Members of Wild Horses, BLM and Logical Solutions
    To: U.S. Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Council
    Re: Population Management of wild herds on HMAs

    The members of the Wild Horses, BLM and Logical Solutions have spent time considering potential solutions to the ever increasing number of horses and burros needing to be removed from the range held in both Long Term Holding and Short Term Holding. We feel that a two pronged program would both greatly decrease the number of animals needing to maintained in this manner and allow older mares to live out their lives on the range.

    We would like to suggest that ovarian ligation be put into an immediate test program in at least 2 and preferably 3 herds using herds that are widely watched and recorded by regional photographers. Our suggestion would allow for mares that are old enough to have had at least 4-5 foals accessed at gathering and removed to the closest holding facility to do ovarian ligation by a veterinarian who has experience in this procedure. We would suggest that working with the state veterinary school located closest to each facility would be the optimal way to get young vets trained on this procedure and to potentially hire vets specifically for the program from this pool of trained professionals. We realize that standard policy would normally be to spend a number of years doing in pen trials with horses that would be scheduled to go to LTH. We feel that this can be bypassed by using herds that are currently being observed and by training the photographers to record information on these mares that would give accurate information about how they assimilate back into the herds. We would like to suggest that along with the ovarian ligation all fillies 3 and under be given PZP and allowed to be more mature at first foaling.

    To summarize our proposal as accurately as possible, allowing for changes needed by region or herd.

    1. Two to three test herds be chosen that mares will be brought in and those 3 and under be given the correct dosage of PZP for their age and mares that are of an age to have 4-5 foals on the ground have the ovarian ligation procedure done to at the holding
    facility. Those mares that are operated on can be held for an appropriate period for recovery at the facility to document reaction and to ensure proper healing of all incisions before being returned to the area that they were captured. Any foals that are under weaning age should stay with the mare in the holding facility and be release with her. Use a
    small hip brand to designate ovarian ligation for observation purposes.
    2. Any mare that shows a major genetic defect or has thrown multiple foals with genetic disorders should automatically be put into the ovarian ligation program no matter what the age.
    3. Train photographers and volunteers to work with the USGS and Universities to properly document range interaction of both the mares who have been given ovarian ligation and those fillies given PZP. Video and photographic documentation of herd/band interaction would be ideal. It is imperative to have USGS and at least one University involved in both
    documentation and study of the effect of ovarian ligation on herd dynamics and the health and well being of both, mares and foals as well as the local bands that they belong to.
    4. Document the short and long term consequences of ovarian ligation on the mares, i.e. heath, longevity, and acceptance/position within the band. Note if the mares are removed from the bands and act like bachelor stallion bands.
    5. Within 3 years if the results of the test herds are good expand to other BLM managed herds with the goal to cut down on required gathers to once every 6-8 years.
    6. Look into the possibility of darting with PZP every 2 years to expand the time young mares have a chance to mature before starting to foal.
    The goal of this plan is to decrease the rate of population growth on the range.
    In conjunction it would allow these older mares to stay on the range without adding to population growth until their deaths and not have to be gathered and shipped to Long Term Holding Facilities for their senior years. Between the ovarian ligation and using PZP on the fillies the herd’s rate of growth could be reduced by 50% per year. This would substantially help both the range and the cost of gathering and housing the horses and burros while keeping more horses on the range. By hip branding the mares that have had ovarian ligation you would be able to gate cut those mares back onto the range at any subsequent gather and not have to haul them off the range.
    Some of the herds suggested for this procedure are South Steens, Oregon; Sand Wash Basin, Colorado; Twin Peaks, California; and/or BLM HMA around the Reno/Carson area of Nevada. These are herds that have been previously documented and in the case of both Sand Wash Basin and South Steens there is photographic documentation of the herds for 5-7 years that would be available to work within this project.


    Susan Humphrey – Hot Springs, South Dakota
    Kathleen T. Granzow – Genoa City, Wisconsin
    Jamie M. Adkins – Casper, Wyoming
    Sandra Force – Junction City, Oregon
    AJ Sutton- Lawndale,Ca.
    Kari Masoner – Tuson, Arizona
    Ana Andrick – Wellington, Colorado
    Nancy Warrick Kerson – Napa, California
    Thomas P. Brunshilde – Hammond, Wisconsin
    Karen Goodroad – Pleasant Hill, Oregon
    Lea Erwood – Rosedale, IN.
    Kathryn Shirley – Holly Springs, North Carolina
    Margaret Rothauge (Maggie) Creswell, Oregon
    Angela Robey – Witch Well, AZ


    • This is the group behind the BLM and Oregon State U partnership to sterilize pregnant mares with Dr. Leon Pielstick and others doing the butchering. The program was cancelled after an uproar by the public and a major letter writing campaign this past July. Under no circumstances should this group be allowed to take mares. Susan Humphrey is a horse hater and was particularly annoying on Facebook.


    • Why would mares be subjected to such gruesome sterilizations if they no longer live with stallions? Entirely unethical and unnecessary (and expensive).


    • Mr. Louie C, Again – who are you related to at ISPMB? What does spaying horses have to do with ISPMB? Nothing. Are they planning to spay these mares to try to save their lives there? Nope. Have they been spayed? Nope! Have you volunteered to go there and actually help these poor starved horses? Nope. That letter is old news sir. And you and Ms Longley need to open your eyes and learn to read the whole article. Did you both miss the parts where the State Vet said the horses were neglected? Yes – funny how a month of good feed Every day does a horses body good. Duh. Stop trying to defend this evil person. She starved and neglected horses – a lot of horses.


  4. Proposal of Ovarian Ligation August 24, 2015
    From: Members of Wild Horses, BLM and Logical Solutions (continued)
    To: U.S. Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Council
    Re: Population Management of wild herds on HMAs

    Debbra Dotson Christensen – Coquille, Oregon
    Stephanie Jones – Eugene, Oregon
    Lisa Sink-Sheridan, Oregon
    Beverly Shaffer – Burns, Oregon
    Ramona Bishop – Burns, Oregon
    Shyla Creasey – Oregon
    Stacey Harnew –
    Andi Harmon – Burns, Oregon
    Keelyn Fawcett – Salem, OR
    Kimberly Omnes
    Mark Omnes
    Angela “Angel” Rakestraw – Dinwiddie, Va
    Jennifer Gregton – Midvale, Idaho
    Iris Benson – Corvallis, Oregon
    Karen Landis – Centralia, WA
    Candy Nichols – Poolville, TX
    Christina Picchi
    Bree Alsman – Sandy, Oregon
    JoAnna Lamb – Boardman, Oregon
    Tracey Westbury – Bellingham, Washington
    Cathy Smith – Pleasant Hill, Oregon
    Rhonda Chayer – Barton, Vermont
    Debbie Jackson – Ellensburg, Washington
    Jes Sothern – Oregon
    Rex Moore – Denton, Texas
    Rose Howe – Monument, Oregon
    Kerry O’Brien – Van Nuys, CA.
    Susan Clogson – Woodinville, Washington
    Nancy Willard – Eugene, Oregon
    Loretta M. Jones – Redmond, Oregon
    Jennie Kreutzer – Arlington, Washington
    Monica Shifflet – New Haven, PA
    Crystal Cooke – Clovis, New Mexico
    Christie Brown – Daphne, Alabama
    Pat Garcia – Burnet, Texas
    Carrie Marie Fuesler – Brownsville, Oregon


  5. Proposal of Ovarian Ligation August 24, 2015
    From: Members of Wild Horses, BLM and Logical Solutions (continued)
    To: U.S. Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Council
    Re: Population Management of wild herds on HMAs

    Jackie Mousseau – Clinton Township MI
    Betty Forman
    Kathy Tellechea – Lexington, OR
    Jim Bishop – Hines, Oregon
    Angela Huston – St Louis, Missouri
    Mike Huston – St Louis, Missouri
    Kay Hamilton – Phoenix, OR
    Richelle Wilson – Hillsboro, OR
    Suzanne Ganazzi – Point Reyes Station, California
    Tina Smith – Sommers, Conn
    Andrea Walker – Fort Worth, Texas
    Jeni Adler Snyder, Oklahoma
    Ash Michael – Madison, South Dakota
    Ashley Lawler
    Brigid Piccaro – Acton, California
    Kathryn Meyer – Orion, MI
    Nancy Kohl – Surprise, Arizona
    Jeni Adler – Snyder, Oklahoma
    Kate Bogel – Howell, New Jersey
    Lara Mogensen – Ellensburg, Washington
    Carol Davis – Selma, Oregon
    Gini Everts – Eugene, Oregon 72


    • Susan Humphrey’s name alone raises big questions! Seems to me I remember hearing about this before – perhaps it wasnt the BLM’s own idea originally. Of course they jumped right on the bandwagon.
      Ms. Humphrey’s name always pops up on pro-slaughter comments anytime there is an article about the wild horse “problem”. These people need to be educated as to the actual facts!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Great idea. Then you Close the site so only your selected few can see these pictures. Only your chosen few can share this site. Only the very select few can help these horses and try to save them. What a marvelous idea! Really? And please don’t give me the ‘but haters are going to say bad things’. The site did not allow comments unless you Joined. What is she really trying to hide? If it is ‘all a lie’ – why the secrecy? It looks like you just Want them to go to slaughter. Then you can blame everyone else.


  6. The sheriff and states attorney went on what Burns said were there-650- no official count was made until thurs by the vet..but reading burns previous post I find she said there were 300 a year ago when she arrived..sounds like some blm math to me


    • Ms Longley – so how many did she ship out between- what that couple of months between all the State vet visits? What shape were they in? Gee, any pictures of those shipped? I recall seeing where the County said the 650 number was from a high ranking official at ISPMB. Not from just Burns. You are grasping at straws and this woman did in fact neglect these poor horses. And you are just as bad and just as blind if you can not see it. How dare you.


    • Here it is dear – How about this direct quote “Authorities counted 810 wild horses Thursday at the sanctuary near Lantry, about 110 miles northeast of Rapid City. They had previously been led to believe by the sanctuary’s top official that the number of horses was 650.” Now I just wonder who that ‘sanctuary’s top official’ was.


Care to make a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.