Equine Rescue

Slaughter Auction Looms for Former Wild Horses as Sanctuary Leader Struggles with Deadlines

Story by Seth Tupper as published on TheVirginiamn.com

To Help Save These Horses Click (HERE)

Journal File Photo of impounded former wild horses

The leader of a wild-horse sanctuary in north-central South Dakota is struggling to meet deadlines and conditions for the return of her impounded horses, leaving her vulnerable to the loss of at least some horses at a public auction.

Karen Sussman is the president of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, which has a small ranch under her supervision near the town of Lantry. Last month, following reports of starving horses and with the society struggling financially and lacking feed for the winter, all 810 of the society’s horses were impounded to be cared for and fed by local authorities.

The court-ordered impounding included conditions and deadlines for Sussman to seek the return of the horses. The first deadline was Oct. 21, when Sussman was expected to submit a comprehensive management plan for the ranch.

Dewey County State’s Attorney Steven Aberle told the Journal this week that Sussman submitted the plan, but it was deemed inadequate.

“What she submitted was not comprehensive enough in our opinion,” Aberle said. “There were gaps and holes in it, and things that needed to be addressed if any animals are going to be returned.”

Local and state authorities met with Sussman on Nov. 9 to work on the plan, and Aberle said the improved plan is still being put into writing.

The next deadline was Nov. 11, when Sussman was supposed to produce evidence of funding or feed sufficient for 18 months of ranch operations. At the Nov. 9 meeting, Sussman sought and was granted an extension of that deadline until Dec. 1, on the condition that she reimburse Dewey and Ziebach counties — which share a border straddled by the ranch — for the costs of the impounding by Wednesday of this week.

Aberle said the counties were several days late in submitting their $76,000 cost estimate to Sussman, so she was given a grace period until Monday. Meanwhile, she made a partial payment of $30,000 on Wednesday, leaving a balance of $46,000.

If Sussman is able to pay that amount, she will still face the Dec. 1 deadline to produce evidence of feed and funding for 18 months of operations. With recent hay costs of $10,000 per week on the badly overgrazed ranch, an amount well into six figures is likely needed to convince authorities to return a significant number of horses. Aberle said the amount raised by Sussman will be used to help determine how many horses — if any — will be returned to her control.

In the meantime, Sussman, who has not responded to Journal interview requests, is free to arrange sales or adoptions of horses. She is apparently doing that, to a limited extent. Dewey County Sheriff Les Mayer recently said that about 55 horses had left the ranch.

After the Dec. 1 deadline, Aberle and the other authorities involved with the impounding order will decide whether to return any horses to Sussman’s control, and how many. Any horses that are not returned will be scheduled for sale at a public auction, with the proceeds going to Sussman’s society only after all remaining county costs have been covered.

Though there are no active horse-slaughter plants in the United States, an auction might attract buyers for foreign plants that slaughter horses for human consumption. Buyers could also include individuals and groups committed to protecting wild horses.

Please help these horses: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ISPMB.Adoptable.Horses/

77 replies »

  1. RT, thanks for keeping up on this story as distressing as it may be.

    Reports from our crew trying to help out is that things are a whole lot worse than reported and that Karen appears to be no longer functionally competent, turning simple tasks into complicated affairs and posing a danger to herself and others. (For example, she insists on being involved in loading and has gotten knocked down more than once. But if anyone comments, she throws them off her property.)

    While I clearly don’t hold Sussman blameless, authorities were foolish to let the architect of such profound and prolonged dysfunction remain in total functional control.

    Based on experiences dealing with these cases, one cannot expect hoarders and folks with declining mental capacities to function rationally in these situations. They are no longer processing and functioning normally and often they tend toward being delusional and paranoid. In the Slick Gardner case, for example, Gardner struck a plea bargain, then tried to appeal it. (You can’t appeal a plea bargain.) When that didn’t work he ran for County Supervisor. (He didn’t win.) These folks operate in their own versions of reality.

    Classic indicators include troubling conditions have evolved over a long time, the individuals involved make promises they can’t keep, deadlines are often not met, and everyone else is to blame. Kind of fits the ISPMB profile.

    The sad part is that the agencies involved usually finally get fed up with the delays and failures to meet conditions that were set. When they do finally take action it’s not always with the best long-term interests of the animals in mind unless a major player can step up who can take on the burden.

    And as I mentioned in an earlier thread, this kind of debacle sends undesirable ripples throughout the entire animal rescue system. Money, resources and holding capacity needed for other equally worthwhile projects has to be diverted in attempts to resolve this human-caused emergency. It was avoidable. It is inexcusable. And now we have to deal with it.

    Meanwhile I’m having to scramble to find places for some 23 Virginia Range horses that the state had to remove from one of the highways, but the usual space that would be available is being taken by Sussman’s horses. So because of her negligence, some of our local horses are at risk of going to the sale. (Nevada statutes state that if the state can’t place them, the Dept. of Ag is required to “dispose” of them at the sale yard.)

    So thanks, Karen.

    Liked by 4 people

    • whg – am hearing from chilly pepper every now & then, too. I know they were still onsite over Thanksgiving. Since this sounds and has sounded like a hoarding situation (have thought this for some time & not said it online). Shouldnt Karen be prevented from putting herself (not to mention these animals) in danger? The whole description of rounding up, sorting, and loading horses that have never been handled – Isnt there some way someone who is experienced with wild horses can be put in charge? What matters are these horses! I realize that this whole mess will add fuel to the fire regarding rescues/sanctuaries – which is so wrong. Now to hear that it will trickle down to other horses that might have been saved? Awful..


      • Maggie, I have to ask yet again where is the effing Board of Directors? Karen is understandably wanting to continue to control everything but it seems that was what led to this situation and isn’t likely to help resolve it. The BOD has a lot to account for. Their absolute disappearance is inexcusable and probably illegal. They should be providing leadership and public relations here but remain AWOL. The ISPMB website is a joke, and the adoption Facebook page is impossibly out of date — they are still advertising for hired help and the home page fails to address the crisis they put these horses into — the most recently dated “news” page is from Oct. 2015, and they do not list their BOD or staff at all.

        Their nonprofit philosophy is written as “Our main thrust is one of education and of becoming a model, a way of “being” on this planet we call Mother Earth. One can make no greater impression than to lead by example.”

        One has to wonder if they have even read it. The horses certainly haven’t.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Icy, I’ve wondered that from the start and I bet a lot of other people do too. Should this whole situation be treated like any other hoarding situation? How in the world are the people in SD that are attempting to save as many as possible managing to get anything done. Maybe the BOD are only figureheads & names! But frankly, sitting back and allowing Karen to still have a say? That just sounds wrong.


      • I agree – What happened to the board? In my experience the board has an obligation to make sure the director is in charge of smooth operations or place an internment in that is, or they themselves can be found derelict of their duties legally. Karen is working under to much stress and sounds like she has not made the right decisions to be 100% in charge. Maybe 50% at most. I was hoping for more so this org. could stay. I was hoping for a ranch to offer 10,000 acre lifetime lease for ISPMB that would cost way less than buying hay. I was hoping for a new board and more employees and an organized international volunteer team to make this much more legitimate and educational.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mary, I am not sure if things are different in South Dakota, but typically the law requires a board President and Treasurer as the minimum officers. They cannot be the same person, each has established terms and the officers are regularly elected by the board or by membership (if that applies).


  2. this whole deal is so very despicable and the horses suffer no matter who is in charge. Why, oh, why do the animals always pay the price for the humans mistakes? It is so unfair to those brave ones. I pray for their kind deliverance to good people who will actually take care of them. Blessing to all you rescuers, I commend you all for your many kindnesses!


  3. I’ve been following this and also finding it nearly impossible to find current information on horses that can be adopted etc. While understanding the folks on the ground are overloaded, this, too is part of a dysfunction which the horses will pay the ultimate price for. It is mostly unreasonable to ask people to take two horses, sight and condition unseen, then pay vet and brand inspection fees plus $1-2/mile to have them shipped to you.

    Is it even remotely possible an entity like the HSUS (or similar) could be granted legal authority to step in Dec. 1, remove Karen from any first hand dealings with the adoptions, and provide a more orderly and humane adoption process? Could the ranch be sold to raise capital and allow enough time and funding to feed horses while getting adoptions more organized? The foals especially should have a better chance at life, but good luck finding any organized way to even know how many remain and what they look like.

    As it is now, hundreds of horses will be heading for auction next week through no fault of their own. While I laud the efforts of those volunteers involved, this process seems almost guaranteed to work against the best interests of the poor horses. Is there a better way? Is there time?


    • Is there any chance a temporary home could be provided on some of the millions of legal wild horse areas to give these horses a chance while a better adoption process can be created, or in-situ sponsors found?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oops, meant to say “millions of acres” of legal wild horse lands (now emptied) which might be accessible if temporary and shipping/labor costs could be covered by eventual adoptions. At a minimum it would allow some horses to die natural deaths rather than spend their last week or so in abject terror.

        Liked by 2 people

    • ” Could the ranch be sold to raise capital and allow enough time and funding to feed horses while getting adoptions more organized?”

      The ranch isn’t owned by Sussman or ISPMB. It’s owned by Christopher Fine. I would imagine as long as the taxes are paid up there is no legal reason to seize it.

      It appears to me from 1500 miles away that letting Karen be involved in who gets what horses was a HUGE mistake. She should have been ordered to stay the heck away from it entirely so that way horses could be taken in by those who wanted them (and hopefully know what they’re doing). I’ve read the huge thread on HGS re: NNER/Scarlett’s Legacy and I don’t feel those animals are going to be better off than they are with Karen. Easy to say when there isn’t a desperate need to place too many horses with too many injuries and health issues.

      It’s a real shame. I want the BOD to answer for their lapses too. They have a responsibility to the organization, its mission and its charges. Not to Karen. Even if they were taken in by her there are plenty of people who could have told them their real responsibilities if they had spent five minutes looking or asking.


    • The ranch is not owned by her and she is in sole control of the horses and adoptions. If she doesn’t like you or who you are associated with then she blocks you and won’t adopt. She wants to keep 400 head for her self. She only allows herself to load the horses and it can take 10 hours to do so. You can not have feed in the trailer to entice them on. She is the only one who can load them and they can be forced on. The horses have to willingly get on. She doesn’t want to loose control and has high placed friends to help block her problems. Any other person would have been charged. She has sole control over all financials of the board and money. There is only 2 other board members who have not been to the ranch and are not involved. They are simply figure heads.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fluffy, if what you wrote is true then ISPMB should be investigated by the IRS, especially if Karen expects to continue on acting (and fundraising) as a single person nonprofit with 400 horses to feed, and more foals coming this spring certainly.

        I can sort of understand that the sheriff’s departments didn’t want to take this on, and that Karen perhaps persuaded them she knew the horses individually enough to want to be in charge of loading them, but since there were more than 200 horses over the initial estimates any notion she “knows” each horse is fallacy. A better move would have been to turn operations over to HSUS or some similar large entity to get horses adopted out in a more orderly and humane fashion. So sorry for all concerned, including Karen, this has to be her own worst nightmare (not excusing it but am certain she is not happy about any of this, either).


      • Just received yet another request for donations today from ISPMB! Sadly, the idea of sending money there at this point just is not a good idea. The thought of letting her have 400 horses??? Thats ridiculous – she has no grazing – its winter and how will she pay for hay? This just boggles the mind!


  4. My heart is breaking…..hoping beyond hope for all the horses to be saved. Wish we could set up some kind of horse program at some of the reservations close by.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I think that Mr Tupper and the Rapid City Journal have done the job of telling the sad sad story very well and I am thankful that they have answered some questions that I had. Especially about the use of reservation lands. I am so disappointed about that. I hope that someone has an idea better than mine!


    • Agreed, but these horses evidently do NOT belong to Karen but to a legal public charity called ISPMB. In a certain sense, we taxpayers all still have a stake in the lives of these horses.


      • And yet – none of us has any say either! The whole idea that Karen would be able to KEEP a number of horses? Look at the state of those pastures! And how would she afford to buy hay? Thats just no longer an option! The ONLY option is to find homes for as many as possible – safe homes! And frankly, these horses cannot be given or sold to just anyone – it has to be either a very experienced wild horse person OR a rescue/sanctuary where they can be more or less free AND taken care of. ANYONE who takes on a wild horse must be aware of the responsibilities that come along with it.


      • Why was Karen put in charge of doing this adoption, process any way? she is mentally off and this has been a hoarding case all along. This has been a Huge mistake on how officials handled the mess. She sounds like she held up the adoptions and literally the welfare of the horses. I have yet to see any of this on FB or any photos or a site showing any of the horses that need adopted. She needs to go to prison thats all there is to it.


  6. Multiple replies.

    1. Yes, it would make more sense for the crew members who have safely loaded literally hundreds of unhandled (wild) horses over the years to be in charge of loading. However little about this whole mess makes sense.

    2. Palomino, Matt and others are still there. I spoke to her this morning. They are exhausted, not so much from the work as from the interference, although trying to safely load horses that have feet so long they look like Aladdin’s shoes can be pretty stressful.

    3. Can’t put horses, even temporarily, on public lands. Not allowed by law. Unfortunate but true.

    4. Here are the state horses that have to find somewhere to go. Contact info to get more details follows the list.

    #2128A: Cremello stud: Blaze, LF/LR/RR socks.
    #2128B: Bay stud: RR ½ pastern.
    #2128C: Black mare: Star, LR sock, RR ½ pastern.
    #2128D: Sorrel filly: Wide blaze, LR/RR socks.
    #2129A: Dark Bay stud: Star.
    #2129B: Bay mare: Small star.
    #2129C: Bay mare: Star.
    #2129D: Sorrel stud: Star, broken strip.
    #2129E: Pinto (Sorrel & white) mare: Star, strip, all four stockings.
    #2130A: Appaloosa stud: Star, strip, snip, LR/RF socks.
    #2130B: Pinto (Tri-color/Bay) stud: “T” Star, strip, snip, all four stockings.
    #2130C: Bay stud: Star, LR coronet.
    #2130D: Pinto mare: Star, broken strip, snip, LF/RF sock, LR/RR stockings.
    #2130E: Bay mare: Blaze, RR/RF socks.
    #2130F: Black mare: Small star.
    #2130G: Black mare: No markings.
    #2130H: Pinto filly: Blaze, LF/LR/RR stockings, RF sock.
    #2130I: Bay colt: Star, strip, snip, RR sock, RF ½ pastern.
    #2130J: Bay filly: Star.
    #2130K: Appaloosa filly: Star, short strip, LR/RR socks.
    #2130L: Pinto mare: Blaze, blue right eye, all four stockings.
    #2130M: Cremello mare: Star, strip, snip.
    #2130N: Bay filly: Faint star, snip, LR/RR socks.

    Studs will be gelded by the State Veterinarian before being placed. Placements are typically facilitated by recognized non-profit horse groups.

    Volunteer Anna Orchard can provide more details and, weather permitting, she will do her best to get photos of the horses on Monday. These are adoption horses and while the state’s regs aren’t as strict as BLM’s, speculators (persons just wanting to flip cheap horses) need not apply.

    Everyone out here is busy so while ALL serious inquiries are most welcome, please don’t just call out of idle curiosity. Anna’s mobile number is 775-722-6960.

    Thanks, all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, WHG. Keep us posted once photos are online someplace.

      I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that legal horse areas once emptied of horses are no longer allowed to host them? I suspect this would not hold up under a legal challenge but time is about out for the ISPMB horses, who one removed apparently lost their citizenship rights.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 99 percent of these horse are decendents of wild horses but have never actually loved on the wild. They are not from BLM lands originally any of them. They came from other areas and some were only loose herds of ranch horses that Karen felt have special bloodlines.


  7. Does anyone have contacts with public land officials to lease some large acreage of public land for ‘grazing’? government fees are about $12 each. Another suggestion is contact Madeleine Pickens and ask if she will buy the lot of them from the county, for the cost of the county care. And let Madeleine Pickens continue the placement from her private ranch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Things I see here that complicate that strategy: first, can her place even take that many horses? There are limited water resources etc. and horses already on site died earlier this year due to illegal activities against the ranch operating. Second, costs of brand inspections, health papers etc. and transporting hundreds of horses to her place. Third, she’d still have to figure out how to feed so many horses.

      I could see some prospect for the BLM to allow the horses to be released on areas previously emptied of wild horses – say the WY Checkerboard, for instance, where nearly 1300 were removed in 2014 under what has been now determined to be illegal processes, and those horses will never be sent home again.

      If ISPMB herds could be released onto BLM legal horse areas, some could be periodically bait trapped and adopted out, or even adopted in place by folks (like me) who would like to help but can’t bring any home.


    • Can’t do it. As I already explained the law doesn’t allow it. Well, actually it does but the process of converting cattle grazing to horse grazing with all the EIA, public comment period, and other reviews that have to take place take months at best, most often more than a year.


      • WHG, I’m not thinking areas with grazing permits, but only those which formerly held wild horses and could again. The example of the WY Checkerboard recent ruling shows those acres of public lands from which wild horses were removed was illegal. These lands remain public despite sheep grazing permits there and on the alternating sections of private lands. However, the nearly 1300 wild horses removed in 2014 (and not returning) would perhaps provide an opportunity for a temporary return of wild horses to these lands. I don’t see any reason this would be illegal due to the recent ruling, the only wrinkle would be the ISPMB horses were sold off long ago and are no longer really owned by the public. But as a temporary (say until next fall?) option it might work… those lands emptied of horses should not have had a resulting increase in sheep grazing so the grass may be in good shape, and we are now in dormant season anyway when less grazing damage is probable.


      • Icy, I’m not arguing that your idea doesn’t make practical sense. It largely does. Problem is that the regs won’t allow it. You can’t just drop animals on public lands.

        There has to be an environmental assessment. AUMs have to be calculated. A grazing season has to be established. Public notice and comment periods are required. Whoever wants to put horses on public lands has to also have recognized “base property” sufficient to put the horses back onto since permits are relatively short duration and subject to cancellation at any time due to various causes.

        Even if the permitting process wouldn’t take months, just the base property issue makes it a deal breaker. If you have sufficient property to hold the horses then permit grazing is a convenience, not an emergency solution.

        Not saying that all the regs make sense all of the time, but that’s the reality of the situation. So we need to focus on achievable solutions for this immediate issue. It appears to me that while we little groups are chipping away at what we can, one or two really big players are going to have to ride to this rescue. Hopefully there are some such players in the wings just waiting for Karen to no longer be able to interfere.


      • Thanks for answers! I agree that if its possible for larger organizations to get in there before too much time goes by, they might be able to accomplish more. By putting all this on the shoulders of small rescues? Thats just not right. So many of us, who have no way to help somehow, being so far out of the picture – having someone actually say whats going on is appreciated. Cannot imagine how frustrating this is for all of you out there. Thanks again


      • I sent emails to Front Range, Lifesavers, & Wild Horse Preservation! Have no idea if its even possible for any of them to DO anything at this point. But seems to me when they send their requests for donations, there should be SOME mention of whats going on in SD! If I hear anything (?) will comment here. Anyone who comments on here? maybe we all should be prodding the larger organizations! Numbers count, you know?


      • Thanks, WHG. I get it about the process etc. but disagree on the base property requirement IF (and only IF) wild horses removed from legal areas were to be replaced thereon, using the existing EA and AUM calculations etc., and only temporarily. I am also thinking the need here is so large it will take a bigger entity to be able to absorb it, and beyond sorry “management” produced this onerous situation.


      • While this is hashed out, please make a hay drop or 2. At least feed the horses. Next, if she has no executor or next of kin, she needs to be in a psychiatric facility getting her stabilized. And leave the horses where they are, feed and water. She is Ill, desperate, and in need of pity while the horses get sold or rescued. My heart breaks for the animals. They are the innocent victims.


  8. Possibly check with Elaine Nash, her posts is where I have read about the horses needing ”homes”. She may know a little more as the numbers etc.?


  9. The situation at ISPMB is extremely difficult. Upon arriving to facilitate a major national adoption campaign to save as many of the horses as possible, our team discovered a total absence of the infrastructure that one would anticipate being on site at any facility housing hundreds of horses. Huge pastures that are full of horses of every age, gender, size, and state of health have no corrals or pens at all. There are dozens and dozens of stallions in every pasture and holding pen, and many fight day and night as their families are broken up by the removal of their mares and foals as they are captured and adopted out.
    Only about 20% of the horses have been made available to us for this campaign. Also, the state has a cap on how many horses we are allowed to adopt out. They want to be absolutely positive that they retain enough of their hooved collateral at ISPMB to be able to reimburse themselves fully by auctioning a lot of the horses- no matter how many could be placed in good homes. It’s all about money to them now, not saving equine lives.
    Knowing the value of pictures, a donor funded a photographer to go from AZ to SD to take photos for us to use in the campaign. A lot of photos of horses were taken, and then about 100 of those photos were posted on the page that I created for networking the adoption effort. Those were supposed to be just the first of many. It turned out, however, that because of how things are done there, there was absolutely, positively no workable way to let people shop through the photos for the horses they wanted, and then have the horses delivered to their door. The photos can only serve only as examples of what the horses at ISPMB are like.
    [How it’s done: Adopters who go to pick up their horses can go choose them, at least to a degree, from horses that have been captured and are in a holding pen. For those who need horses transported to them, horses are selected for the adopters based on the requested number of horses, gender, age range, and which horses are buddied up. So far, everyone we know of has been happy with the horses they have gotten. There are some really nice horses there! They tend to be sweet natured, interested in getting to know their new humans, and happy to be scratched on.]
    Traditional gathering and capturing techniques are not allowed. In fact, almost nothing is allowed. It’s just not possible to select a particular mare and foal pair or group of yearlings, or a club of young stallions in the pasture and convince them to go wait in the gathering pen, which is pretty much what they would need to do for the operation there to work. With the current set up and under the current restrictions we’re working under, there is simply no way to do this like people think it would be done. It’s not a matter of horsemanship skill, or numbers of ‘boots on the ground’, or anything else. There’s a way things are done there, and altering that process is not up for debate.
    Thanks to a gracious donor, we purchased almost $10,000.00 worth of panels and gates to create needed gathering pens, but our team members have not been allowed to set those pens up in a manner that makes them functional- so catching any horses is still very difficult. Loading is a whole other challenge, since there are no alleyways or funneling systems, which are not allowed. (The panels we purchased will all be donated to the rescue of one of our volunteers at the end of this campaign.)
    Nothing about how things are done is left up to the very horse-savvy people who are on site to do the gathering sorting, and loading. There is literally nothing that can be done to change the situation there, and as a result, a LOT of horses at ISPMB will not see 2017.
    The good news is that in spite of having seemingly endless hurdles higher than Everest thrown up before us, we have gotten a lot of horses adopted. They have either arrived at their new homes or soon will be on their way. Mares and foals, young stallions, buddy stallions, blind stallions, gangs of yearlings, developing three and four years olds, horses with special health needs, thin horses, fat horses, and elderly horses are all finding their ways into the hearts and homes of wonderful people who support the effort to help these horses. Our favorite people, of course, are the ones who got to ISPMB and help set up pens, fences, gather horses, and give the truly amazing team of volunteers there big hugs to show their support and understanding before driving away with their lucky new horses. We’re pretty crazy about the donors who help fund the rescuers and transporters, too, of course.
    The local Sheriff’s guess about how many horses have been adopted is way off. Not sure where he’s getting his information, but our numbers are significantly higher. Maybe he quoted an old tally. We stopped counting at 100, since our focus is on how many more we can get out before time’s up, not how many we have gotten out already.
    Please pitch in. Help with the leg work, help with the networking, donate to help adopters cover costs of transports, adopt horses, find homes for whole herds or large groups of horses. Challenge the ‘big three’ organizations to get involved- fast! The adoption campaign may be cut off by the state in five days. Horses adopted before that date can leave after that deadline, so don’t wait to adopt even if transporting will take a few days to arrange. Adopt now. Come and get them. Some of the horses that are waiting for you are simply stunning. Five days is all we’re sure we have.

    My email address is HoldYourHorses@aol.com. Please don’t send me emails of just your opinions, because I don’t have time to read them. And, like I said, we’re not in charge there in the ways that matter most. If you want to donate to a transporter who’s helping us get horses moved, or to a rescue taking in all they dare, please write me about that, and I’ll connect you with the people who need help the most. Thank you to all who support the effort to help the ISPMB horses find new lives.

    Elaine Nash
    Fleet of Angels

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Elaine, for your hard and heartbreaking work. It is beyond sickening that any auction buyers will be better able to select horses to buy than anyone else.

      Is there any possibility the horses sent to auction could be put onto a live audio auction, as is commonly done for livestock? This may offer one last possibility of a better life for many horses as so few people can get to SD in midwinter (this presuming the auction is even a single location and the date publicized in advance).

      It is at least possible to set up bidders in advance, too. How to do this? Can the Sheriff’s depts. or HSUS or ??? step in after Dec. 1?


      • It is the Sheriff who will eventually have control over the horses, and sadly, has not been at all interested in working with us in any way. In fact, he publicly advised people to not adopt through our campaign, but to wait and get horses from him. It’s not a happy situation there for the horses when the state/counties takes full control, at all.


    • Sad but understandable about keeping so many horses from being adopted. While it’s easy to point fingers about it being “all about the money” the Sheriffs are public servants paid through taxpayer dollars who have had to step in for what is surely an unbudgeted (and large) drain on their finances. We should be grateful they stepped up at all!


      • Actually, they’re planning to sell far more horses at auction than will be required to recoup their funds. We’re working to change that, but at this time, that’s their plan. They’ll give the difference to ISPMB.


      • HYH, if the auction proceeds exceed the costs to the sheriffs, why on earth would any additional funds be returned to ISPMB to start all over again? The entity should be dissolved or put into some sort of receivership, not be provided further means to continue down an obviously dysfunctional path. At a minimum, any funds may be taxable at this point as it seems clear they have strayed far from their mission.


    • ” They want to be absolutely positive that they retain enough of their hooved collateral at ISPMB to be able to reimburse themselves fully by auctioning a lot of the horses- no matter how many could be placed in good homes. It’s all about money to them now, not saving equine lives.”

      Can you blame them? They’ve paid a lot of money that they don’t have to spare to feed horses that don’t belong to them and they didn’t abuse, neglect or let breed indiscriminately for years. If they did absorb the cost, then services to residents will suffer (more).

      ISPMB is to blame for this mess. Not Ms. Burns. Not the counties. Not the state. If they want to pay money to ensure that more horses CAN get to safety rather than trying to get horses returned, that would be in the horses’ best interests. That would mean Karen sets aside her ego (and poor judgment – whatever its source) and directs that money go to the bill.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Ellie, thanks for posting. I was a little reluctant to post some of these details earlier for reasons you just described: criticism is not tolerated. But what you have helped illustrate is the seriousness of this situation including the apparent total lack of rationality and competence that led up to this debacle and that is now making the solving of this mess extremely difficult for the volunteers who are attempting to produce some positive resolutions.

    I’ll continue to bite my tongue on this matter… for now. Meanwhile we’ll continue to keep things rolling from this end.


  11. I say stop blaming everyone except the one that caused this mess. I am pretty sure by the sounds of things that unfortunately the Sheriff will have plenty of horses left to recoup their costs just because of KS and her control problems. Not because he doesn’t want to let any more go. And this will all be for nothing if she is allowed to keep any of these horses. I will say thank you for all you are trying to do for them but you really do need to face the reality of who caused all this and stop playing the blame game.
    WHG – I would be interested in seeing pictures of the horses you are looking to place. I only have room for one more.


    • SJ, if we’re not in the middle of a snowstorm Anna will get pics on Monday and we’ll upload them to a gallery page. With RT’s permission I’ll post the link so you and anyone else can see them. Thanks. And also the observations you just posted seem to coincide with other reports “from the front.”


  12. I think we all know the issue well. This is a Criminal case of neglect and this woman has clearly lost her mind. The Board needs to seize control. Please someone tell I said so. Fpr the mental physical and emotional factors involved she needs ousted. To save the horses she needs to step down.


  13. I think that cattle ranchers and kill buyers are attacking horse saving groups through their funding . Making every effort to stop their funds so that these types of situations come about. True horse lovers can spare $1.00 to donate. If 1,000,000 donate $1.00 a year this person will have no trouble taking care of these animals, adopting out some and e Ben buying some others from the kill pens. God bless


  14. Icy brings up an interesting issue. Not claiming to be familiar with SD corporate law (or wherever ISPMB may be incorporated) but it doesn’t appear that ISPMB could even muster a quorum if they are incorporated in a state that requires a majority of positions that are registered (filled or not) for a Board action to be legal. Also in some instances a corporation of just two directing officers isn’t recognized. What I do know is that the IRS frowns on such small numbers with respect to an entity being a legal public charity.

    I’m just “what iffing” the situation but it sounds like it could be a can of worms.

    Switching to the Nevada horses, Anna should be uploading the pictures that she took some time today and I’ll post a link to them. Thanks, RT.


  15. can they be moved (herded?) to the Cheyenne River Reservation? Can we pay for their grazing there? Is this land even open to them???? Is there shelter?? This is for the horses that don’t get adopted to buy more time for the paperwork…….


    • Rita, the history I’ve read lately is that around half these horses were relocated FROM the reservation back to ISPMB several years ago as the tribe returned to grazing cattle on their lands. These horses have now been impounded and are under the control of law enforcement, except for those ISPMB can prove they can support after Dec. 1 for at least 18 months. As I understand it, on Dec. 1 the sheriff’s departments will have the right to proceed with selling any or all of the remaining horses at auction to recover their costs (and then some).

      The ISPMB Facebook page shows some videos posted today which show a raging blizzard in ND and comments some horses are belly deep in snow in the corrals already. I didn’t see any shelters but there are a few leafless trees in the background in places. It isn’t clear why videos of individual horses couldn’t be posted weeks ago to help with adoptions, but it does seem there are and have been major control issues at play all along.

      Scroll down here for a taste of the SD blizzard underway:



      • Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Very kind – I don’t want to take any time from helping out there and am trying to think outside the boxes !! I understood that they came from temporary grazing at Pine Ridge Reservation so that is why I suggested Cheyenne River Res. I take it that since they have been impounded no other solution for temporary shelter is possible and that adoption is the only HUMANE way out. I saw the blizzard and honestly don’t see a way to help with that end of things – I am not in a position to adopt but only donate and send the word out. Would like to know if Rapid City Journal is planning to update the story to the bitter end and that is my next email.


      • Rita, the ISPMB website indicated they were once on the Cheyenne reservation but those hundreds of horses were sent back, I think in 2013.

        I’m hoping there will be significant and continued press coverage of those shipped to auction, with live cameras and an online auction element which might give some horses a better chance than they have right now. The sheriffs should want this as it would raise sale prices over what might be a low turnout of a few kill buyers otherwise, buying horses in truckload lots and godonlyknows what they would do with those fuzzy foals.


  16. Thanks again IS – now my next idea – bad as it may seem – is why doesn’t Karen keep all the babies? Then at least they would not have go through this awful process for now and perhaps have a better chance, i.e. less food costs for Karen to continue their care for a longer period of time? I just can’t picture what would happen to them – can’t stand it….Are they not weaned? Probably not……….


  17. News from “the front lines” and I’m doing a bit of a slow burn.

    Our crew reported that the Sheriff came by and told everyone his people were going to start impounding horses for the sale starting tomorrow. Unfortunately (or I should probably say, even more unfortunately) several of those horses still at ISPMB have been spoken for by potential adopters. According to reports, the reason those horses are still there is due to Sussman’s constant interference and ineptitude, which has made relatively simple sorting and loading strategies difficult if not impossible.

    She’s apparently still under the delusion that everything is going to somehow turn out just fine, although so far nobody has seen anyone with the necessary horsepower willing to ride to the rescue, at least as far as the bulk of these animals are concerned.

    They may have won a short reprieve of sorts, a couple of additional days to get the spoken-for horses out of there. But if things continue the way they have over the past few weeks, I don’t hold much confidence that most of those spoken for horses are going to get out of there, except by means of the sale truck.

    So there you have it. As bad as this business has been, it’s actually worse. And this report is coming from the guy who likes to post good news.


      43 mins ·

      OK. Here’s an update on the update…
      Apparently there was a misunderstanding on the part of the Sheriff about the adoption campaign, who was notifying people that no horses could leave the ISPMB property after midnight tonight- adopted or not, and that they would be sent to auction later this month. However, this is the official word from the State’s Attorney to Fleet of Angels through our attorney this evening: ‘Anyone who has applied to adopt horses by midnight tonight will still be able to pick up horses approved for them.’

      Now- here’s the good news/bad news situation: We have now received more applications for horses than there are horses to adopt. For the moment, we will honor all adoptions that have been approved. We will continue to explore what the future holds for this adoption campaign and for those innocent horses. So, forward ho- and thank you ALL for helping save as many of the ISPMB horses as possible! 11-30-2016


      • Is Karen still holding 400 horses in reserve which aren’t available (yet) for adoptions? Please keep us posted on what is happening with those who are essentially now hostages to this human circus.


  18. Comment to Icy: Great idea however all the auction yards I’ve been to expressly prohibit still or video cameras. Also most likely if the sale brings in more money than is owed the County, the excess will has to go back to the party whose animals were impounded, so I don’t see the Sheriff trying to make money for Sussman.

    Best chance is that someone with adequate finances and a place to put that many horses shows up and either covers the county’s costs or will attend the sale. Just not holding my breath for that outcome, however. But one can always hope.


    • WHG, I understand, but if in this case up to 400 horses were heading to a single auction, that could be a separate event and run like an online livestock auction to allow people from everywhere to see and bid on animals in real time. It’s not uncommon at all to do this. I don’t see any down side to this whatsoever, it would only take a bit of organizing and the livestock auction companies already do this for a small percent of the sales. It’s at least worth investigating this as an option, rather than just run them through one or many sale barns and disperse them to… whatever fate awaits.


  19. GREAT NEWS – Thanks Elaine for the update – just sent you an email for a proposed Compassion Adoption $$$…….Thank you Thank you EVERYONE !!!


  20. I think that if people want to adopt more horses that were put up for adoption – an exception should be made so that they can adopt. They will still get money…….that would be awesome for the horses that are left…….surely the state’s attorney will see the wisdom in this.


    • Rita, if the adoptions are free or $1, there is no incentive to keep them from an auction, where they would sell by the pound, unfortunately. Recent sales in my area show them selling around 35 cents a pound.


      • So sorry I am looking at this whole thing from the backwards side – now I get the business side of it………..It’s even more grim than I could have ever imagined. Now I am really frightened.


      • Yes. It was revealed today that only one third of the 810 horses were ever allowed to be available for adoption, leaving around 535 horses to be held back for eventual redemption by Karen, or sale by the sheriffs. Since it seems Karen has not met the terms for keeping these horses and has not paid the sheriffs back in full, they are headed for auction this month.

        I’m guessing at least half are foals or yearlings and the rest their (probably pregnant) moms and grown studs. If so, the adult horses are probably worth somewhere around $94,000 if they weigh 1,000 lbs. each. Foals and yearlings are harder to sell but may find Christmas shoppers this time of year willing to save some lucky few.

        Just heartbreaking. They will need a Christmas miracle.


  21. I believe I read in another post that they have more people wanting to adopt than horses. If this is true then why can’t some of the horses not slated for adoption be allowed into the pool? Why was that certain number chosen – for profit on the rest? Providing that Dewey County gets their money back adoption is the right way to go. As for foals are they being adopted or there is no interest? The pregnant mares – an adoption could be a 2 for 1? Believe in a miracle……..most people have a heart.


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