Breaking News: Deal to stop wild-horse auction OK’d by all except sanctuary’s leader

UPDATE:  Auction Canceled

Aberle said a meeting was scheduled Thursday with ISPMB President Karen Sussman, but she did not show up and has not responded to the proposal.

A deal that would have stopped the auction of hundreds of wild horses in north-central South Dakota has been accepted by all parties except the leader of the troubled sanctuary where the horses reside, according to an attorney who is participating in the talks.

Dewey County State’s Attorney Steve Aberle said a consortium of concerned organizations has offered to reimburse Dewey and Ziebach counties for the costs of caring for the horses since October, and to assume the care and feeding of the horses while trying to find new homes for them through adoptions.

Aberle, who said the consortium members wish to remain confidential, said county officials and the state Animal Industry Board have agreed to the deal, but the owner of the horses, the nonprofit International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, has not.

 Aberle said a meeting was scheduled Thursday with ISPMB President Karen Sussman, but she did not show up and has not responded to the proposal.

Unless Sussman accepts the deal soon, Aberle said, the estimated 550 to 650 horses that are impounded at the ISPMB ranch on the Dewey-Ziebach county line near Lantry could be put up for sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Faith Livestock. Wild-horse advocates fear that buyers for foreign slaughter plants will be among the bidders.

Aberle told the Journal in a phone interview Monday that “it would be very unfortunate” if the auction took place. “But it would be one person and one person alone who would prevent that from happening, and that is Karen Sussman, president of the ISPMB,” he added.

Phone messages left Tuesday morning for Sussman and the ISPMB’s professional fundraiser, Howard Paley — who has spoken recently on the organization’s behalf — were not immediately returned.

Sussman lives at the ISPMB ranch. After becoming the society president in the 1990s, she moved the organization from Arizona to South Dakota and changed its focus from advocacy and lobbying to the rescue and ownership of threatened wild horses.

When authorities stepped in to impound the ISPMB’s multiple herds at the ranch and take over the care and feeding of the animals in October, they counted 810 horses on the ranch’s scant and overgrazed 665 acres. The court-ordered impounding, which came with Sussman’s reluctant agreement, followed a finding of neglect by a state-employed veterinarian and allegations from a former ISPMB employee that some horses had died of starvation-related causes.

Since the beginning of the impounding, Sussman has parted with about 200 horses through adoptions or private sales, Aberle said. Authorities limited private adoptions and sales to 270 head because the counties wanted to retain some horses as collateral against the costs of the impounding.

The ISPMB was allowed more than a month to reimburse the counties for those costs, but so far the organization has paid only $52,000 toward a growing total of about $100,000, mostly for hay purchases. (Some of the costs have been offset by $24,000 in donations and grants to the counties.)

The ISPMB was also given the opportunity to get some horses back by producing evidence of enough funding or feed for 18 months of operations. The continuing lack of such evidence led authorities to schedule the auction. The proceeds would go first to the counties to cover their costs, and then to the ISPMB.

The October impounding order put the horses under the care of county officials but left legal ownership and responsibility for adoption efforts with the ISPMB. Some critics have assailed county and state authorities for not seizing ownership of the horses and taking control of the adoptions, but Aberle has avoided such an action because he is concerned that it could be considered an illegal seizure of property.

There are provisions in state laws and administrative rules, though, that allow for a transfer of ownership in cases involving impounded animals. The relevant administrative rule of the state Animal Industry Board says the board may seek a court order to transfer ownership of the impounded animals to a suitable caretaker or facility.

Aberle said options to avert the auction will continue to be considered, but the auction remained scheduled as of Tuesday evening.

One of the groups that have been publicly active in seeking better homes for the horses is The Humane Society of the United States.

Earlier this month, the South Dakota office of the HSUS issued a long written statement explaining that the organization previously provided assistance to the ISPMB but ended that assistance “when ISPMB leaders failed to follow our recommendations and take action necessary to manage population growth.”

Since the impounding, the HSUS statement said, the organization has been trying to help facilitate adoptions of ISPMB horses in cooperation with Fleet of Angels, a nonprofit network of trailer owners who provide transportation and assistance for at-risk horses in the United States and Canada.

Like Aberle, the HSUS pinned the blame for the impending auction on Sussman.

“The HSUS is strongly opposed to the slaughter of horses for human consumption,” the organization’s statement said, “and we are deeply saddened that Ms. Sussman’s choices have put the horses at risk of being purchased at auction by kill buyers.”

58 comments on “Breaking News: Deal to stop wild-horse auction OK’d by all except sanctuary’s leader

  1. Unbelievable 😦 this woman (Karen Sussman) has been wild horses worst nightmare and now she is allowing this??? she should actually be in jail for cruelty to animals for allowing horses to starve to death under her care! geeezzzzz

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  2. What is wrong with Sussman?? If ending up sent to slaughter, the blood of these innocent horses will be on her hands! So many were willing to take these animals previously, but she wouldn’t cooperate then, and people who would have provided good homes for them left with empty trailers. This situation is beyond awful. Can’t she be found mentally incompetent, so that someone with good sense can be assigned in her place to take over and get these horses to safety??

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sussman apparently does not choose to act in the best interests of the horses. Her conduct defies rationality, and appears to be a refusal to do what is good and right on behalf of the Wild Ones. Those willing to help, and work with the agencies involved, must persist in their admirable efforts to bring these horses to safety.

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    • I agree with you wholeheartedly. It was unthinkable that the head of the organization that was founded by Wild Horse Annie could become so heartless. Velma Johnson must be flopping in her grave. Like you, I pray that anyone who has ever wronged our wild horses and burros comes clean before God.

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  4. The absolute lack of rational behavior on the part of Sussman has been a huge thorn in the sides of the volunteers up there trying to deal with this debacle. This is precisely the kind of crap they are dealing with.

    Unfortunately Sussman’s detachment from reality has involved more than just this catastrophe, although it is arguably the worst example. She used her position as some kind of historic spokesperson for the wild horses to enlist others to believe in her delusions, and in doing so undermined the efforts of several western wild horse groups who had been working with BLM to reduce the sizes and numbers of roundups. Clearly her “theories” are rubbish and once this debacle is concluded, we need to get back to work on legitimate approaches to protecting our wild horse herds and their natural habitats.

    Also… If I ever become as delusional as Sussman, any one of you has my permission to shoot me.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. At this point, we’re all guessing, but there’s a break for the good of the horses. We’ll find out soon. Tremendous work is done by the advocates Elaine and the Fleet of Angels, Lauri Armstrong and many others.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. WHERE IS THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS, AND THE IRS?

    Does the ISPMB even have a quorum for board decisions anymore with the resignations of at least two members?

    This is a nonprofit clearly NOT functioning in congruence with its legal mission (if, as stated, it includes “rescue” of threatened horses). The only “rescue” they can provide at this time is to keep these innocent horses from the chaos and stress of sale and certain slaughter for many, if not most.

    The original mission statement filed with the IRS should be public information – if they are not honoring this legally binding agreement their nonprofit status can be revoked and the entity dissolved.

    Is anyone looking into this?

    A nonprofit is a public trust, not a private dictatorship. It is alarming enough that (if as stated above) one person has been the President for over twenty consecutive years; the bylaws should contain approved processed and procedures for cycling board officers and limiting terms of service. Bylaws may or may not be public record, so I will plead here for any former board members (or others) who have a shred of compassion for these hapless horses to please share this information and notify the IRS IMMEDIATELY.

    This much confusion this late in the game will lead to more horses paying with their lives. Karen may perhaps be understood as “loving too much” but clearly her actions and inactions are proof she is not capable of acting in the best interests of the public trust, or these guiltless horses.

    Karen, if by some miracle you read this, please honor Velma’s legacy and character, and salvage a bit of your own by releasing these horses NOW.

    MERCY MUST BE ALLOWED A ROLE IN THIS HUMAN MASQUERADE

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Per the article above:
    “Some critics have assailed county and state authorities for not seizing ownership of the horses and taking control of the adoptions, but Aberle has avoided such an action because he is concerned that it could be considered an illegal seizure of property.”

    The inference here is Aberle hesitated due to considering these horses PRIVATE property, WHICH THEY ARE NOT despite Karen’s probable actions indicating ownership.

    Also, since the earlier decision to allow Karen oversight of adoptions has now led to documented interference in this process, which reduced adoptions, wasted a lot of interested people’s time and money, and resulted in injuries, there are grounds to modify the impoundment order (or authorize a new one) and have the state designate another authority to manage these horses.

    There is another very cold weather system heading that way over the weekend, and people planning to attend the auction will be hitting the highway. Please delay this auction to prevent pointless loss of lives – both human and horse – to allow a legal disposition process time to continue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is where my post on another Sussman article comes into place. I think her actions indicate she is NOT mentally fit. The assumption is that they are impounding a hoard whichade them private property however since criminal charges were not brought that could not be severed. Since these horsez belong to the ISPMB and Not to Sussman as we all know they need to either disband the organization terminate immediately to eliminate property issues and legalities. They dont get relinquinshed to another rescue solely based on mission statement and bylaws for 501’s however an Impoundment that has fell through and not be completed as orderex by this juristiction would revert ownership without recourse to the Court and would allow for them to resolve the horses going to the inquiring party that is not slaughter related. Sussmans interferenxe should Alarm any nonprofit as to balance of personal belief of power. When you interfere with the legal safety and welfare of animals you need to be removed/restrained from the situation. I think the Board needs to step up and say they volunteer to terminate and close to allow these horses to be saved.

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      • Colt, every 501 © 3 has their own bylaws which detail how and when their assets will be transferred on dissolution of the entity, but as I understand it they do have to go to a nonprofit with a similar mission statement to avoid incurring penalties. I’m not familiar with the specifics of SD law but if the horses have been impounded and are to be sold that implies ownership has already transferred, it is only the disposition of resulting income that is in question (what remains after costs are recovered are to be returned to ISPMB in this case it seems).

        The sheer silence from the Board of Directors speaks volumes about the evident lack of integrity or ethics from this organization, formed to protect horses, not themselves. I challenge anyone reading this to publish the articles of incorporation (which is public information), and the bylaws (which may or may not be public, based on what the board of directors determined in prior duly recorded votes).

        Liked by 1 person

      • PS. Any former ISPMB board members who have a shred of integrity should also be speaking out in defense of these horses and the ISPMB mission, but have remained curiously silent.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Ok Icy Spots your misunderstanding. I said the Organization needs to close or terminate. I have Not removed the Board of their failure to take proper action or say anything publicly. In Impoundments where they are unable to pay or fulfill the requirements they do not get to transfer to another 501c however they do become temporary property of the Authority impounding them . The Board I was Saying Just needs to Shut it down. Annie’s Legacy can be restarted with a new Organization with her Core Values on Wild Horsemanship and Handling AntiSlaughter and Responsible Care. The existing mess I was just saying needs to wrap it up and be done. The transfter of a 501C would happen if they had complied and were paid or the Second Organization was Fullfilling the agreement to release from impoundment. They simply did NOT fulfill this as we all know. The technical things are just this. They failed. Sussman needs counseling. They shouldnt return any horses to her Organization. This 501C should terminate and A new one without her in an authority position should form. Thats all I was saying.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Sussman is being extremely selfish. She is supposed to be thinking of the best thing for the horses. By refusing to even respond to this option is thoughtless and cruel.

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  9. Such a critical situation. It is very important that that two Spanish Colonial mustang herds: the Gila with 139 horses and the White Sands with 273 horses be preserved as reproducing herds that can carry on at viable levels in to the future! I pray for the angelic overseers of horsekind to intervene and bring true enlightenment and justice for these wonderful presences in horse form. All of them!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I’ve kept quiet about this till now but I think that they should seize the horses and remove them to wherever they will be cared for and found good homes. She’s had long enough to make up her mind but had chosen to do everything in her power to keep these horses in peril. Many thanks to Elaine Nash and fleet of Angels for their hard work in sorting this out. And above all thanks to HSUS for stepping in and writhing out a deal. If Karen cares anything about those horses she’ll let them go.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. This lady is in know way to be in the position she is in. If she truly cared about the horses she would be available..Dont let this happen these wild horse’s have been through enough already.

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  12. Why on earth would anyone even want to eat horsemeat from worm infested, unhealthy horses? (Or from any horses, for that matter?) There has to be a way to remove Karen Sussman from her post and prevent the auction. It is the only thing that makes any sense. If anonymous private entities have offered to pay the balance of the counties’ bill, they should be allowed to assume ownership and find them homes. Sanity must prevail.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Are the parties willing to take them not attached to horse slaughter in Any way? If not then you must superceed Sussman as being mentally incompetent to handle her duties in relationship to the horses health and wellbeing.

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  14. Some good comments above… I just called Aberle’s office and spoke with his secretary and she said she would pass along my comments to him. She sounded surprised when I told her that Karen has prevented people with trailers from picking up horses. I don’t know the situation as well as others do, but I get emails about what is happening quite frequently. I’m way out in California but todays post was just the last straw that prompted me to call. I think if other people called (and emailed) and if someone could get some media attention on it ASAP maybe that would prompt action from Aberle to step in and remove Sussman’s control. She should have no say whatsoever about what happens to those horses. Also, if no local media will touch it someone with the ability to make a video can post it on Youtube and send the link out via emails. We’ve just seen the power of this in regard to Standing Rock. The mainstream media wouldn’t touch it but many people used Youtube to get the videos and the truth out there. It’s hard to manipulate the facts when you can see the truth 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • From what I’ve read there is someone being paid to be on site 4 hrs. a day now to feed etc., so why not also take videos to be posted online? This would encourage adoptions as well as raise awareness of conditions.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Someone needs to commit that woman…she obviously isn’t in a lucid state of mind. If there is a way to avoid the auction then there must be a way to do it. Even without her consent. I reserved my my opinion because I know that I don’t know the whole story…but if she allows the auction to take place it will be unforgivable.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What in the world has happened to Karen?? I hope that someone has checked to be sure that she hasn’t harmed herself!?! (a distinct possibility for anyone in such a situation, especially since she obviously has N0T been “acting normal ” for quite awhile? ) 😦

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  17. IcySpots: Awesome! Must have been that phone call I made, lol! Anyway, it buys some time…I’d suggest anyone going to pick up horses have someone along who can video tape if Karen starts any trouble. Evidence is a good thing 😉

    cssssswv: So many things I could say to your comment but I’ll refrain myself…

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  18. This is an alarming story of impending shipment of our nation’s wild horses to slaughter. The auction is the pathway to slaughter. Your article doesn’t point that out. It also doesn’t tell us what we can do other than agonize. This is a complicated story but we need to know in simple terms what and others can do to intervene here.

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  19. This woman is only thinking of herself and not the welfare of the horses! She should be ashamed.. If you love horses you do what is best for them, something she has not been doing for quite a while. Prayers for the horses and hope Karma bites her in the ass!!

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  20. I am the first to admit that I’m no expert on either wild horses or how different groups are handling the concerted effort by agencies to ‘remove’ them from the wild. I do have opinions on that, but what I’m here to share is this. Maybe Sussman is not acting in the horses’ interests, maybe she has reasons for doing what she does. Has anyone actually tried talking to her? It bothers me a great deal when men get on a blog like this and start in on how ‘mentally incompetent’ a woman is who clearly at least in the past has tried to help these horses. More piling on ensues by other people of both genders who believe maligning a female is great good fun, regardless of what efforts she may have put forth in the past. You lost your argument in my book, however valid it may be, when you resort to character assassination.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fair comment, Amanda. But here’s the deal and RT was absolutely right in bringing these issues forward. Also I have to add one of our crews is on the front lines up there who report back the absolutely profound and disgusting conditions that can be found all over the facility (if you can call it a facility;) sick, injured, dead and dying animals, decaying carcasses still being discovered, no real efforts to provide any reasonable care for these animals, a mind set that everyone else is at fault and that it’s OK to neglect hundreds of animals because “that’s how the strongest survive,” and I could go on.

      I’ve worked animal hoarding cases both as an ACO and as an NGO specialist. All the classic hoarding signs are here. The only difference is that this isn’t a house full of neglected cats, but a massive collection of horses. Accordingly the logistics involved with clearing up this debacle are also massive.

      Hoarders typically are in denial. Sussman appears to be in denial.

      Hoarders typically try to postpone the inevitable. As RT (and the press) reported, Sussman even failed to show up to a meeting where some well financed groups had presented a plan that the County would accept to avoid the livestock sale.

      I won’t even get into the deliriums the volunteers on the front lines are being faced with on a daily basis.

      I’ve known Karen Sussman for decades. 20 years ago she was a coherent, focused and capable wild horse advocate and sanctuary operator. It’s not my place to express an evaluation of someone’s mental health, but I will say that this appears to no longer be the case. What was originally a reputable sanctuary has become more like something one would see in the Twilight Zone. The incredible misery that the animals are currently suffering and Sussman’s constant interference with rescue efforts (as reported by virtually everyone there) pretty much tell the tale.

      This issue is NOT about “maligning a female is great good fun,” and quite frankly that cavalier comment is an insult to all the volunteers (most of whom are women) who are struggling in the midst of horrible conditions on a daily basis. This issue is about hoarding, gross lack of care, and apparent mental incompetence; something that is not limited to women but does seem to be more associated with aging and the ability (or lack thereof) of critical decision making.

      If this is an issue of decreased mental capacity, it may not be Sussman’s intentional fault. But for authorities to fail to act once becoming aware of the situation, the continuation of the neglect then becomes their fault.

      The Sheriff has a duty to act and one way or another this matter will be resolved. The part of the outcome that is unclear to me is whether Sussman’s intransigence will force these poor animals to end up at the livestock sale.

      Liked by 1 person

      • WHG, is anyone documenting the “sick, injured, dead and dying animals, decaying carcasses still being discovered, no real efforts to provide any reasonable care for these animals” you describe? I find it disconcerting there is so little published from those on site (videos, photos, etc.). Recognizing everyone is busy, it also isn’t a huge task to document what is found and what is happening. Your words above are the first I’ve seen indicating the problems continue even after impoundment. Mr. Aberle might like to see these and take stronger actions, and sooner.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wildhorseguy, your comments are duly noted and bring tears to my eyes. In no way are the horses ever deserving of the kind of neglect they are being subjected to. If the woman has mental incapacity or suffering from hoarding syndrome then she is certainly in no position to care for many horses. I feel certain that at one time she did have good intentions. But the situation seems completely out of hand now. My comments were not made cavalierly, but it is very difficult from a distance to ascertain exactly what is going on. We all have to rely on the credibility of written comments on-line. I appreciate yours on this subject.

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    • Character assassination is not the intent nor the goal, but when any individual, man or woman, placed in charge of the welfare of animals or people, does not hold themselves accountable to the detriment of those they are charged with protecting, and when it is brought to light and assistance is offered and rebuked, to the further detriment of those they are charged with protecting, it is difficult to not then make the assessment that another individual or group of individuals needs to step in. Then when all that has occurred and more help has been offered and solutions proffered and that individual still will not hold themselves accountable, you can surely understand why so many people are upset with her (Karen Sussman).

      If she is of sound mind, those most closely involved in this situation would be cognizant of that fact, and it would have taken a decidedly different course.

      From the inital photos presented by her employee, to the assessment of veterinarians, to the resignation of two of her board members, to failing to provide an acceptable financial/management plan going forward, it appears she is not intellectually capable of functioning on behalf of these horses whom she claims to exist to protect.

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    • My arguments consistently point towards a dysfunctional nonprofit, of which Karen Sussman is a board member (and perhaps employee? don’t know). Nonprofit corporate status is a legal privilege and they seem to be completely silent on this ongoing slide to the slaughterhouse. This suggests to me that either the board is nonfunctioning, it completely supports these actions which are contrary to its declared mission, or Karen has been given (and has taken) carte blanche management of the herds and the organization. All three of these options fail the horses, and the public trust. It’s clear this is a multifaceted tragedy, including for Karen, but the horses have no choice or voice so it is reasonable and ethical, and legal for others to speak up for them and to question her decisions.

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    • Male or female what she is doing is wrong. This has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with someone that has been entrusted with the lives of hundreds of horses and has not and is not making decisions that benefit these horses. In fact her actions have put them in great danger of losing their lives.

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      • So WHO and WHERE are the former and 1 current board members?? Are they not known advocates whom we’ve seen through the years? Hasn’t ANY 0ne of them had a statement or explanation of any kind? I do still feel awful about Karen Sussman – due to whatever happened to her – As Icy(?) said above, we know 20 years ago she was a coherent, focused and capable wild horse advocate and sanctuary operator. ”

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      • Therefore, it’s difficult to understand – Why didn’t these closely involved people STEP up and SAY/DO things to intervene a long time ago?? Additionally, as Craig Downer mentioned : I worry especially for those historic herds bloodlines which were a “crowning achievement ” of the sanctuary for years. Does anyone know if some special arrangements have been offered or done FOR them?

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    • The situation caused by Karen has absolutely nothing to do with gender. It could be anyone. Look up the Three Strikes with Jason Meduna–that was also horrid and male. The men on this page are being pretty reasonable and are responding as people who have been through this disgusting situation more times than they wish they had. I’m female and a bit irritated that the female card was even thrown down here.

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  21. The offer that was made- and is still on the table, provided a home for every horse that can be made pain-free and healthy, humane euthanasia for any that need that escape, sanctuary for some of the herds, private homes for horses placed with their buddies, mare/foal pairs, or bands. We have a retirement sanctuary arranged for the old or disabled horses that needs a soft place to land and live out their lives, we have a fund that can provide initial vet care, hoof care, gelding, and microchips for all. Everything needed provided for every horse. All that was required was one signature. Our offer received no response from ISPMB. That proposal would have been the vehicle for the smoothest possible transition. There are other options. Stay tuned.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meanwhile Karen continued to send out appeals for sponsors and for people to become members of ISPMB. (I’ve received several.) Sadly there is a significant disconnect here.

      Our crew (Palomino and Matt) have returned to Nevada for R&R and to bring back some horses.

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  22. Just for the record. I have followed some of the blogs for some time now and never received ANY feedback on anything until my one criticism here for a situation I may have incorrectly assessed. No one has EVER felt the need to answer my questions here about the horses, so when I say it is difficult to try to figure out what the heck is going on from a distance when people dont respond online or by email I mean just that. And also for the record I will make a comment about gender inequality whenever I think it is happening. Im not opposed to being corrected when it was inaccurate, but I wont be bullied into not making my thoughts known.

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    • Amanda while your stance is Appreciated the Blogs are regarding the Abuse of Wild Horses including Preserving…handling…proper care and ensuring their future. This Blog is Not about “people” or inequality of gender however its for the future of these horses. This person (no gender cited) killed horses which were in her care via Abhorrent neglect. Then its seen through rose colored glasses by some and we See the Truth. Without All the facts many questions you or anyone else has cannot be answerex. The Fact IS horses died which could have been prevented but being in charge of a Sanctuary sworn to oversee protection and provide more than Adequate care means whether male or female the person should have done above and beyond the right to avoid it. This is Not character assasination. At this point no charges were brought……happens in Alot of horrible abuse cases. People have some sympathy for her….many do not. Either way to state someone did not provide the care and find resources to prevent deaths is not character assasination. Its staying on point. As for the both sides win theory well the horses died andany are at risk of death via slaughter because of this persons bad decisions. Thats not a gender issue. In fact quite the opposite. The horses suffered and died slowly of malnurishment. No one really likes hearing this so if people are angry and lashing out its only to be expected. Sorry your questions werent answered but theres no one person in charge of this fiasco that can spare time from horses to save in order to answer every blogged line or inquiry. I believe un one post you thought I was a man. I am a woman and Colts is named after my 8 yr old son Colt. I am not afraid to stand against cruelty no matter which gender causes it and I too wont be bullied to stop sharing my opinion. I dont consider abuse of horses a gender issue. If you enjoy the blogs we apologize. This is informative and very helpful with saving horses overcoming challenges.

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    • Off topic. Way off topic. Thankfully, for these beautiful horses, there are some really good people, working very diligently, trying to get them a shot at a decent life.

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  23. Amanda, point taken and accepted.

    Part of the conundrum involves these horses technically being privately owned on private property so folks there have to walk the line quite a bit, trying to describe what’s going on but not talking so much that they get their butts kicked out so they can’t help at all. Sad business all around.

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