Equine Rescue

Counties, State Seek to Strip Alleged Sanctuary of Neglected Former Wild Horses

Story by as published on the Rapid City Journal

“Something to TRULY warm our hearts this holiday season.  The horses may FINALLY have a chance and it is about FLIPPING TIME!  Thank you Elaine and all the folks who have selflessly worked behind the scenes.  You are all angels and we love you for all that you do.” ~ R.T.

5800dff80a381A state board took the first step Thursday toward permanently removing hundreds of wild horses from a troubled north-central South Dakota sanctuary and finding new homes for them.

Members of the South Dakota Animal Industry Board met by teleconference and authorized their attorney to seek a court order. The order would transfer horses owned by the nonprofit International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros to the ownership of another suitable caretaker.

The horses have been temporarily impounded — but are still under the society’s ownership — since October at the society’s small and overgrazed ranch near Lantry, about 150 miles northeast of Rapid City. Authorities in Dewey and Ziebach counties, which share a border that is straddled by the ranch, have been caring for the horses at the expense of the counties’ taxpayers.

 The impounding was motivated by a public complaint, which led to a state-employed veterinarian’s finding that the horses were suffering from neglect. In addition, a former society employee publicly alleged that some horses were dying of starvation-related causes.

There were 810 horses at the ranch when the impounding began. That number has since dwindled to around 540 through adoptions or sales arranged between private parties and the society, Dewey County State’s Attorney Steve Aberle said Thursday in a Journal phone interview.

Terms of the impounding agreement allowed authorities to cap private adoptions and sales at 270 horses, because county officials wanted some horses to remain as collateral against the costs of the impounding. Some of those costs have been reimbursed by the society and by public donations and grants, but Aberle said that an estimated $75,000 remains outstanding, mostly from hay purchases.

Reimbursement for those remaining costs could be negotiated as part of a transfer of ownership, Aberle said. There is a consortium of concerned groups that had proposed a deal to take ownership of the horses, find adoptive homes for them and reimburse the counties, but Aberle said the society did not respond to that proposal.

The same deal with the same consortium, or a somewhat similar deal, could be sought in the proposed court order for transfer of ownership.

“It’s still a possibility,” Aberle said. “It would be up to them and (subject to) court approval.”

Aberle declined to identify the members of the consortium, saying they wish to remain anonymous for now.

 Efforts of some groups seeking better homes for the horses have been visible on social media. One such group is Fleet of Angels, a nonprofit network of trailer owners that provides transportation and assistance for at-risk horses in the United States and Canada.

Fleet of Angels founder Elaine Nash said Thursday in a phone interview that her all-volunteer organization has coordinated the adoption effort so far, spending the past two months working through winter weather to gather and send 270 horses to dozens of new owners nationwide.

Screened applicants adopted two to 20 horses apiece. Nash said the new owners of the horses include individuals who hope to train them for riding, rescue organizations that will try to find appropriate homes for them and sanctuaries where the horses might live the rest of their lives.

Nash, who splits her time between New York and Colorado, declined to say whether her organization will have a role in the proposed transfer of ownership, but she said as opposed to the uncertain future the horses were facing, “Things are looking much better for (them) now.”

Aberle said the counties and the Animal Industry Board’s attorney will jointly seek a court order to execute an ownership transfer. A time and date for a hearing on the request is yet to be scheduled. Aberle said the hearing is likely to take place at the Ziebach County Courthouse in Dupree.

The counties and the state board previously granted the society opportunities to earn some or all of its horses back from the impounding by reimbursing the counties and by providing evidence of feed or funding sufficient for 18 months of operations. The society failed to fully reimburse the counties and produced no evidence of further funding by the deadlines set in the impounding order, Aberle said.

Efforts to reach the society’s president, Karen Sussman, via phone and email messages were unsuccessful Thursday.

Authorities had scheduled a public auction of the society’s horses for earlier this week but postponed it indefinitely. Wild-horse advocates had feared that an auction would draw bids from foreign slaughter plants. The horses are either all rescues or descended from rescues.

State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven said Thursday in a phone interview that transfers of ownership have been pursued in other impounding situations, but he called the transfer of such a large number of animals “unique.”

“We always prefer to work with the owner to have them be responsible for providing for the care of their animals and managing them in a responsible way,” Oedekoven said. “Short of that, a sale or transfer of ownership has been done in the past in order to care for the animals properly.”

32 replies »

  1. I would MOVE to SAVE THESE HORSES!!!! I WOULD NEVER neglect them & ALWAYS LOVE THEM!!!! There are MANY positive options to turn this around!!! IF ONLY GIVEN A CHANCE!!! The HORSES DESERVE 2B CARED for to the extent they don’t even miss where they were BCUZ now they are just as HAPPY❤ Until all are HEALTHY, HAPPY &CARED FOR PROPPERLY this isn’t fixed to a humans satisfaction!!! And that’s what THESE MAJESTIC TREASURES TRULY DESERVE &NOTHING LESS❤🐎😇 I would give Anything for THESE HORSES to be SAVED!!!!!!!!🐎❤🐎💙


  2. Plus I WOULD do a Waaaay BETTER job than a 60+ yr.old woman that can’t even buck bales or carry an injured foal to be able to get help if needed!!! PLUS I LOVE HORSES AND I WOULD NEVER NEGLECT THEM!!!!***LET ME HELP SAVE THEM*** Because We can SAVE THEM IF JUST GIVEN LIL BIT OF LAND & help W/ hay ***Unless GIVEN areas to grow alfalfa (maybe even solar powered)2 run sprinklers. WE CAN CORRECT this TRAVESTY IF ONLY GIVEN A CHANCE!!! PLEZ consider passing along R.T💙🐎


    • I understand the neglect, but making disparaging remarks about age causes doubt about older rescuers. I think had some of these haters become involved before problems arose might have prevented animal suffering. It seems some people love to kick those who are down.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jacqueline, I agree with you plus I am almost 78 and I’d like to see some muck out after 5 rescued mustangs and one old Arab like I can. I’ve had men and teen agers quit on me. BTW I think Karen is 72 and works as an RN at the reservation clinic. Was the farm manager doing her job to begin with? I think there is more to this .

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure you are amazing if you love horses too and work w/ them. THAT’S commendable I MEANT no DISRESPECT. JUST WANT WILD HORSES SAVED…that’s all.💙🐎4ever


  3. Fund raising stories were all over the place including newspaper reports that $300 has been raised and the money due the counties was paid for. For Aberle to say that isn’t so and that ISPMB didn’t have any money toward 18 months of feed/care is questionable also. It’s time for everyone to come clean and show their financial statements. In the meantime, these horses are inundated in snow. Also those who say they want to “help” may be prevaricating.


  4. I really don’t understand why the reservation couldn’t provide more land for the horses and why hay wasn’t grown on these properties so horses could be fed without being gouged by the locals who just wanted Karen to fail at the expense of the wild ones. This is thoroughly devastating. These horses are the last of their genetic lines, and Aberle just wants the counties paid. Of course that’s his job, but what is really the truth here?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good qustion, Chris. Karen works as an RN at the reservation clinic so was the farm manager doing her job? Also Karen is against PZP so maybe other orgs. didn’t help her and it’s for sure ranchers didn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barbara and Chris, I share your concerns.
        It is, of course, imperative that the Horses are given the needed care and that the counties are paid what is owed them.
        However, there is a LOT that we don’t know and the fact that Karen took a public stand against PZP made her a target. You can see that from the many negative (and often vicious) comments that this has generated. I’ve followed a great deal of this story in the process of trying to gain some insight.
        The Horse Herds that are now being dispersed comprised a prime and intact study group and there are probably records that could be continued.
        It seems to me that the best possible outcome for the Horses AND the Public would be a government funded conservation study on Public Land where they belong. It simply isn’t possible to conduct such a study on donations.
        As it is now…all we see is continued roundups and removals.
        Karen was trying to change that

        Liked by 2 people

      • Louie, while it may be true Karen’s PZP stance made her a target, it’s also very clear that is not what caused the tragedy here. Not enough land, not enough money, not enough oversight, a hands-off BOD, and unrestricted breeding did. With or without PZP this leads to predictable consequences for anyone keeping horses, no matter how good their intentions. Reality is real.


      • IcySpots, what I think we need to keep in mind and always in the forefront is the real tragedy is that the Horses were removed from their original environments. Had they been left in the wild, where they belonged, none of this would have happened. I do realize that they were not (technically) under the umbrella of the Wild Horse & Burro Act, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were wild and free-roaming. However, I also believe that, with the 22 plus Million acres that has been taken away from them, that land could and should be returned. There could be a pilot study program implemented on public lands where it should have been conducted in the first place. There is no way to duplicate that in a semi-sanctuary environment where there are no checks and balances and there are in Nature. In the wild, old Horses are not give senior feed and orphaned Foals are not bottle fed. as they have been at ISPMB.


      • Something that we also need to remember is that business as usual continues for those who profit from WH&B removals from our Public Lands and more captured Wild Horses are being sent to South Dakota. Will they be given shelter from the harsh winters there?

        Castrated, Captive, Former Wild Horses Now Roam Power Ball Winner’s Land
        Unedited story by Seth Tupper as published on GrandRapidsMN.com

        “The BLM’s propaganda war against wild horses and burros continues in the unedited article below. It contains inaccurate numbers, hints on sending the horses to slaughter AND the livestock company “Spur Livestock” who managed this move were caught by Wild Horse Freedom Federation selling wild horses to known kill buyers, click (HERE…. https://rtfitchauthor.com/2013/01/22/breaking-news-wild-horses-sold-to-kill-buyer-by-blm-contractor/) which the Feds swiftly swept under the carpet.

        On Tuesday, officials of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management showed off the roughly 50 square miles of grassland where a herd of 917 newly transferred wild horses will graze for years to come.
        The land is about 25 miles east of Newell, or about 75 miles northeast of Rapid City. The property is owned by Neil Wanless of South Dakota, who bought it with the proceeds of a $232 million Powerball jackpot he won in 2009 (he opted for a lump-sum payment and took home $89 million after taxes.)

        Wanless, who is preternaturally averse to media attention, did not attend the tour that was staged for the media Tuesday. His ranch manager, Adam Karrels, attended in his stead.
        “He likes his privacy,” Karrels said.

        Wanless’ privacy is further protected by his private arrangement with Spur Livestock LLC, which has a registered address in Midland and is owned by South Dakota ranchers Jim Reeves and Lyle Anderson. The government pays Spur Livestock a varying rate of around $2 per head, per day, to ensure that the horses are fed, watered and kept relatively wild and free-roaming. Spur Livestock, in turn, has a private deal with Wanless to keep the horses on his land.


    • Louis C’s comments – I agree – especially about the vicious attacks should anyone bring up facts against PZP which automatically happens on FB even though there are plenty of studies by respected researchers that show negative impacts occur with this vaccine on all animals including deer. I also agree that Karen’s studies should be continued on an HMA possibly utilizing Craig Downer’s design. But if the Interior Dept were to go such route, no doubt many “investors” would yell and scream as they are already doing. Lastly, I don’t anticipate the next administration would even consider it – just look who is nominated as DOI secretary. We’ll be lucky if any wild equines remain alive. A very sad situation indeed.


      • The previous years have been a good “warm-up” and mobilization exercise for the rest of the battle…one WELL worth the fight.
        As important as the WH&B are those of us that love them, there’s far more to it.
        This is about ALL of our Wildlife and Public Lands

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Is this a good thing or not? I don’t live there and am not in the know as a lot of people are, but it seems that the agencies and others do everything in their power to encourage sanctuaries and others who would help wild horses to fail, because they want the horses gone – Madeleine Pickens is a perfect example also.

    It saddens me greatly that no one is concerned about saving these bloodlines.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sanctuaries are the end of the line for these wild equines since they cannot reproduce. The Great Escape Sanctuary of SWB equines is another prime example. Their last overhead count was in 2008 and BLM has been extrapolating population explosions ever since.


  6. I was under the impression she was inher 60’s when GIVEN obligation& position to care for the “RESCUED” MUSTANGS💔💔 NO HATERS HERE❤🐎I JUSt don’t think it’s VERY LOGICAL to DO!!! & look what DID HAPPEN2🐎😥 SO Helping the HORSES DIDN’T HAPPEN SAVING THESE HORSES DIDN’T HAPPEN SEEING the HORSES HAPPY & HEALTHY flourishing in a safe sanctuary DIDN’T HAPPEN!!! SO BE LOGICAL LOVING & START REALLY SAVING OUR REMAINING MAJESTIC WILD MUSTANGS! ❤🐎THAT’S ALL I ASK!!! IF you CARE About THESE INNOCENT AMAZING TREASURES….PROVE IT & HELP THEM! B4 it’s too late❤🇺🇸🐎


    • Rachel, there is a much bigger story and longer history here that you might want to read up on. Karen probably started with exactly the same passion you express, but that was (I think) nearly 30 years ago. Despite having hired staff and some great donors, something here has gone very wrong for the horses. If you want to help them, research this so you don’t also make similar mistakes in your future. We all have to learn from this!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve asked this before too. Cant imagine those horses with no way to get out of the wind & snow. I just hope & pray that whoever is coming to feed & water spends time checking the horses – all the herds.


      • If they could even see them in that storm! Most of the highways statewide were closed. I hope they put out plenty of hay in case they couldn’t get back in there for days.

        I am concerned since there were some FB posts on the Dewey County Sheriff’s page indicating there were still horses in rough shape there in past weeks, and random carcasses still being found. Very troubling there is so little filming being done, for whatever reasons.


      • Winter – especially this kind of winter – is so hard on older horses or young ones without a good start. Sadly the lack of care these horses have had means they need daily eyes on & with this weather – I wonder if anyone is taking the time to really LOOK at them & see exactly how they are getting along. The picture that Palomino took of the blind stallion completely covered in snow & ice was downright scary & he was taken care of & probably is back in Nevada with them. But the ones left? Yeah, would be nice to see somepictures or video.& KNOW they were ok.


      • Sadly, even though Karen lives there the ISPMB website has ZERO current information, their most current newsletter is a year old now.


  7. Had they been left in the wild, where they BELONG, we wouldn’t all be worrying about them.

    Last of the Spanish Mustangs
    This old standard def show aired on CBS 5 in Phoenix and was the second highest rated show of the day, next to the Rose Bowl. People like wild horses. I just finished a new version that focuses more on the horses and shows Cerbat footage you can’t find anywhere else. It is more of a relaxed journal of how I feel when I connect with the horses…good before bedtime.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Icy Spots – your comment about unrestricted breeding is noted. No doubt you’ve read Karen’s observations that her herd that was captured by BLM and had been given birth control had higher rate of birth than her herd that did not have human interference. Karen also had mares, who after the Pzp wore off, gave birth to 6 foals, but 5 died last year. These complications need to be studied before we declare this birth control an elixir of success. Aside from this is the fact that wild horses are NOT over populated on HMAs but sheep/cows are.


    • Chris, compensatory is well documented, certainly. I was not declaring contraception an success, have only and always considered it only one tool in the toolbox, and certainly not the first one to ever be used.

      My point was simply that ISPMB knowingly confined hundreds of freely reproducing horses within fences on overgrazed land, with very little evidence I can find of adopting out any on any scale equal to even one year’s new arrivals. Their argument this is valid, peer-reviewable “research” translatable to wild herds remains questionable, the silence of the ISPMB Board of Directors inexcusable.

      This is a recipe for anyone to fail, and to fail the horses. They (and the public supporting wild horse charities) deserve much better.


      • Research always should be falsifiable.
        As for your other statements, ask Karen why there was little land and why they didn’t grow their own hay and why didn’t they have shelter on the god forsaken prairie. It would be good to get answers from Karen directly or her lawyer.

        Have a great New Year.


      • Hi Chris, I meant to type in “compensatory reproduction” above, sorry, but you got it anyways. There’s a long back story on why many horses were returned to ISPMB from the Cheyenne Reservation, and the start biological truths that to raise hay one must withhold grazing for most of the growing season, and with only 640 acres of dry land prairie it’s nearly impossible to do both without stringent population control and pasture rotations which include rest from haying and grazing in some years.

        I don’t know Karen and it’s clear she and the ISPMB board are keeping largely silent, again inexcusable in my view for a nonprofit receiving public benefits.

        That said, I will wish all these horses a better new year, as well as anyone reading this. I will keep reading and acting but will also step away from commenting in 2017, it accomplishes little when we need more action than talk. The poet David Whyte has written an eloquent letter on his website, asking everyone to be “half a shade braver” in the coming year, something I intend to do respectfully, and encourage others to do as well.


    • Read Marybeth Devlin’s comment about PZP on the Havasu News article. She’s done her homework.

      Marybeth Devlin

      1. The wild-burro “overpopulation” exists only on BLM’s falsified spreadsheets. The Black Mountain burros are, in fact, underpopulated. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recommends a minimum herd-size of 2,500.
      2. Burros are slow to reproduce. Gestation lasts an average of 12 months but can extend as long as 14 months. A jenny gives birth to just 1 foal, typically in alternate years.

      3. The burro birth rate is about 14%; but half of foals die before their first birthday. Thus, the effective increase in new burro-foals is just 7%. However, at least 5% of wild burros other-than-foals also die every year. Their death-rate (5%) further reduces the surviving-foal rate (7%), yielding an average herd-growth rate of 2%. Thus, it would take 35 years for a burro-herd to double.

      4. In the past 3 years, BLM has reported fraudulent herd-growth rates for Arizona’s Black Mountain burros: 25% (more than 12 times the norm), 45% (more than 22 times the norm), and 7% (more than 3 times the norm). Such growth is biologically impossible. Please note that the errors compound, as each successive year’s growth is estimated based on those that preceded it.

      5. BLM staffers cannot claim ignorance. They are college-educated professionals with degrees in science and range management. They are well-aware that wild-burro herds cannot increase at such high rates. Yet, even after the fraudulent growth-estimates are brought to their attention, they willfully continue to cite them, causing local officials, such as Mr. Watson and Mr. Moss, to become alarmed needlessly. Why the falsification? Apparently, to prompt Congress to increase the Agency’s budget.

      6. BLM is bound by law – the Data Quality Act – and by policy -the Department of the Interior’s Code of Scientific and Scholarly Conduct – to disseminate information obtained through “as rigorous scientific and scholarly processes as can be achieved.” However, BLM’s data with regard to wild burros is deceitful.

      7. The stocking-density that BLM imposes on the Black Mountain burros is absurdly low. BLM restricts the herd to 1 burro per 4 square miles. At 2 burros per 4 square miles, BLM calls them “overpopulated.”

      8. Burros do not bother other wildlife, such as bighorn. Wehausen (1998) concluded that “a negative influence of burros on bighorn sheep demography has not been shown as support for true competition.” Arizona’s current estimated population of bighorn is 6,000.

      9. Burros do not disadvantage mule deer. According to the Arizona Game & Fish Department, “Mule deer are the most abundant big-game animal in Arizona, with the statewide population estimated at 120,000 post-hunt adults.”

      10. To develop a Final Solution to a concocted crisis, BLM is handing out $11 million for sterilization-studies. The grant money is surely intended to buy loyalty and silence potential criticism from recipients. Plus, BLM gets to cloak itself in respectability by affiliating with prestigious institutions such as universities.

      11. HSUS is seeking BLM funding to experimentally inject the Black Mountain wild burros with PZP, a sterilant. But because HSUS is the registrant of PZP, a conflict of interest is apparent. Lacking scientific impartiality, HSUS must be disqualified from being paid to study its sponsored product, and from using taxpayer money to sterilize underpopulated wild burros.

      12. PZP is a pesticide that was registered without fulfilling the standard testing requirements, relying merely on what now appear to have been misrepresentations by the manufacturer. There is currently a lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of the registration, especially in light of new studies that have disclosed PZP’s many adverse side-effects.

      13. PZP causes disease -auto-immune disease. Behaving like a perverted vaccine, PZP tricks the immune system into producing antibodies that induce ovarian dystrophy, autoimmune oophoritis, ovarian cysts, and premature ovarian failure. PZP quickly sterilizes jennies that have a strong immune system but has no effect on those suffering from weak immunity. Thus, PZP both “works” and “doesn’t work” but, in the long run, selects for low immune function, thus weakening a herd’s resistance to infection. If a jenny is pregnant or nursing when injected, PZP antibodies are transferred to her offspring via the placenta and milk. Stillbirths are also associated with the pesticide’s use, meaning that some of its apparent contraceptive effects are actually feticidal.

      14 The experiments proposed by HSUS call for the jennies to be captured and then transported to a holding facility for injection with PZP. They would be held captive for the next several weeks in order to administer a second “booster” shot of PZP. Most (70 to 100) of the jenny-subjects would be freeze-branded with three digits on both hips for convenience in identifying them. The ugly freeze-marks would be 3½ or 4 inches high, and large in width. They would ruin a jenny’s appearance for the rest of her life.

      15. PZP is a powerful endocrine-disruptor. The EPA Pesticide Fact Sheet warns women that accidental self-injection with PZP may cause infertility. Unfortunately, because the manufacturer misrepresented PZP as “so safe it is boring,” volunteer-darters have become lax in following safety-precautions.

      16 Nature provides the right-way to right-size a herd: predators. Burros do have natural predators, among them mountain lions and coyotes. Both species are present in the Black Mountain area. If BLM believes that inadequate numbers of predators prevent them from fulfilling their population-control function, then BLM should work with AZGFD to conserve them.

      17. The mortality rate of captive mustangs runs about 8% a year. Because they do not reproduce, their numbers steadily decline, showing that BLM’s billion-dollar figure for their lifetime care is just another Lie. BLM has since multiplied its original $1 billion figure by 230%, amplifying the fraud.

      18. There are 22 million acres of wild-horse-and-burro habitat that BLM took away for political expediency. That land should be reopened and the equine captives freed there. Cost: $0.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you Louie. This article so applies to all equines. It is worrisome that so many ISPMB wild horse rescuers with differing methods will be involved.


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