Equine Rescue

Alabama veterinary student arrested at rodeo, accused of selling rescued horses to slaughter

By Carol Robinson as published on AL.com

“She pulls up Facebook and a private rescue group had flagged her name for doing business will kill-buyers,’’ …“I immediately started bawling my eyes out.”

A Tuskegee University veterinary student accused of promising to love and care for re-homed horses and instead selling them to slaughterhouses was arrested at a weekend rodeo in Blount County.

Fallon Danielle Blackwood, a 24-year-old Boaz woman, was taken into custody by deputies on a 13-count indictment charging her with bringing into the state property obtained by false pretense elsewhere. The indictment was issued in October 2018 and marked the second state to bring charges against the woman. She was also arrested at the vet school in Macon County eight months ago on an outstanding North Carolina warrant on similar charges.

“I found out she was arrested, and I just started crying,’’ said Lindsay Rosentrater, a Georgia wife and new mother who turned over her beloved gelding to Blackwood nearly one year ago. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Blackwood has been released from the Blount County Jail after posting $15,000 bond. She’s returned to vet school. Blackwood on Tuesday declined comment and court records do not yet list an attorney for her. A call to Tuskegee University officials for comment was not returned.

Rosentrater and her husband in January 2018 found they were expecting a child and were not in a solid financial position to care for their aging horse, Willie. The horse was almost 15 years old and suffered from ailments that prevented him from being ridden. Additionally, the farm where Willie was being kept was going through a transition and all of the boarded horses had to be out by the end of the month.

“I felt like I didn’t have the time he truly deserved so I went out in search of a forever and loving retirement home for him,’’ Rosentrater said. “I posted an ad to my personal Facebook page, horse related Facebook groups and Craigslist. My ad was titled: ‘ISO Forever Loving Home For Sweet Retired Appendix Gelding.’”

Within 24 hours, Rosentrater said, Blackwood contacted her after seeing the ad on Craigslist and said she had a horse farm in Boaz. “She said she was very interested, was a vet student and had a barrel (racing) horse that needed a companion,’’ Rosentrater said. “It seemed too good to be true.”

The two women spoke by phone and arranged for Blackwood to travel to Georgia to meet Willie. That introduction took place on a cold, rainy Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, at a Cherokee County, Ga. barn. Blackwood showed up with a truck and horse trailer.

“My heart dropped,” Rosentrater said. “I was under the impression she was coming to just meet Willie and I but in reality, she did drive about three hours to get to us so I could understand her strategy as we weren’t a quick drive from her home in Alabama. She decided to bring the trailer in case she really liked him. It seemed logical to me considering how much it would be to fuel her truck.”

Blackwood told Rosentrater that she wanted to take Willie with her that day. “That caught me off guard,’’ Rosentrater said. “I was surprised and explained how I wasn’t emotionally, mentally or professionally prepared. I hadn’t planned for him to leave that day as I was anticipating a visit only.”

Rosentrater, who obtained a college degree in Equestrian Studies and is by all accounts an educated horse owner, quickly drew up an impromptu contract that stated, in part, if Blackwood was unable to keep Willie for any reason, he would be returned to Rosentrater. The transaction was completed, and Blackwood loaded up Willie. “He started screaming for me down the road. I just sat in the barn and cried,’’ Rosentrater said. “But I had to dust myself off. I was going into a new chapter and I was doing what was best for him. It was the selfless, right thing to do.”

Rosentrater and Blackwood texted over the coming days and weeks. “Every couple of days I checked in,’’ Rosentrater said. “But I asked her for a photo of Willie, and she wouldn’t send me one. I asked her repeatedly.”

Rosentrater said her suspicions deepened. First, she used Google Earth to look up the address of the Boaz barn, but there was no barn at that address. Next, she confided in a friend who worked in horse rescue who immediately recognized Blackwood’s name. “She pulls up Facebook and a private rescue group had flagged her name for doing business will kill-buyers,’’ Rosentrater said. “I immediately started bawling my eyes out.”

Rosentrater reached back out to Blackwood and said she had made a terrible mistake, and though she had given Willie to Blackwood for free, she was willing to buy him back. “She wouldn’t respond,’’ she said. She texted Blackwood again and told her, “I knew what her gig was.” Later that night, Rosentrater launched a Facebook page called “Finding Willie.”

“Overnight, it blew up,’’ Rosentrater said. “I was contacted by other horse owners with the same story. It was horrifying to me.”

Blackwood saw the Facebook Page and pleaded with Rosentrater to take it down, she said. There was back-and-forth conversation between the two, with Blackwood claiming she had given Willie to a family for their young children. Eventually, all communication ceased.

On April 3, Blackwood was arrested after Alabama’s State Bureau of Investigation notified the Tuskegee University Police Department that a warrant had been issued for Blackwood’s arrest by authorities in North Carolina. That warrant claimed that Blackwood obtained property — specifically, two horses — under false pretense, and included a request for full extradition. She was taken into custody on campus and transferred to the Macon County Jail where she was held on the charges for North Carolina’s Martin County Sheriff’s Office.

On April 6, Rosentrater posted on Facebook that via Missing Horse Report filings through NetPosse.com, also known as Stolen Horses International, they had found 26 horse owner victims and 39 reported horses. “These numbers are rapidly growing as we have had recent exposure in the media,’’ she wrote.

On Tuesday, Rosentrater said they have identified almost 50 missing horse reports from six states filed with Netposse.com that are linked to Blackwood.

Macon County Sheriff Andre Brunson said he wasn’t aware of Blackwood’s latest arrest in Blount County, but said it is a sad, tragic case if all the allegations against Blackwood turn out to be true. “These people trusted that their horses were being taken care of and instead they may have gone to slaughterhouses,’’ he said.

Just 13 days away from the one-year anniversary of turning Willie over to Blackwood, Rosentrater said she still has not found out for sure the fate of the horse she had loved and cared for since she was in high school. “We have pretty strong indications he did get shipped into Mexico for slaughter,’’ she said.

Right now, the price of meat is about 50 cents on the dollar, she said, which would have brought someone about $750 for the 1,500-pound Willie. “She had a four-horse trailer and it seems like in many of the cases, she was picking up more than one horse at once,’’ she said.

Blount County District Attorney Pamela Casey said she was made aware of the case when the State Bureau of Investigation approached her late last year. “There has been a large number of persons across the southeast who provided information in this investigation, and we appreciate their help,” Casey said.

Rosentrater said she’s thankful that Blackwood will now have to face the charges in an Alabama court but said she still has so many unanswered questions. “Why? Where?’’ she said.

As a lifelong animal lover, it’s hard for Rosentrater and others to reconcile someone who dedicates their life and training to animals, only to turn around and potentially lead them to their death for financial gain. “It doesn’t make sense to me,’’ Rosentrater said. “How do you separate the two?”

“It’s all still hurtful to me. I’ve been living with a lot of dark clouds during a time I should be rejoicing,’’ she said. “And she’s out there not realizing the hurt she’s caused and I don’t know if she ever will.”

https://www.al.com/news/birmingham/2019/01/alabama-veterinary-student-arrested-at-rodeo-accused-of-selling-rescued-horses-to-slaughter.html

11 replies »

  1. APNewsBreak: New pen may allow sale of horses for slaughter

    By SCOTT SONNER

    The U.S. Forest Service has built a new corral for wild horses in Northern California, which could allow it to bypass federal restrictions and sell the animals for slaughter.

    The agency acknowledged in court filings in a potentially precedent-setting legal battle that it built the pen for mustangs gathered in the fall on national forest land along the California-Nevada border because of restrictions on such sales at other federal holding facilities.

    The agency denies claims by horse advocates it has made up its mind to sell the more than 250 horses for slaughter. But it also says it may have no choice because of the high cost of housing the animals and continued ecological impacts it claims overpopulated herds are having on federal rangeland.

    “While slaughtering wild horses does not present a pleasant picture, the reality of this dire situation is not pleasant,” Justice Department lawyers representing the agency wrote in its most recent filing last month. “The Forest Service is taking a step to reduce what is universally recognized as a natural catastrophe.”

    Horse advocates have been suing the government for two decades over mustang roundups that private ranchers say are necessary to curb growing herds that reduce the forage on federal lands they lease for cattle and sheep grazing across the U.S. West. The region holds roughly 90,000 wild horses.

    A sharp reduction in demand in recent years for a federal program that offers the horses for adoption to the public has left little room in existing corrals. Horse advocates argue the mustangs are federally protected and that taxpayers subsidize the livestock grazing on U.S. land.

    A hearing is scheduled Jan. 31 in federal court in San Francisco on a motion filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and American Wild Horse Campaign seeking an injunction to block the sale of the horses captured in the Modoc National Forest in October and November for possible slaughter. The new pen is in the forest, about 170 miles (273 kilometers) northwest of Reno.

    Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen announced late last year she would postpone any sales for slaughter until at least Feb. 18.

    The protection groups say it would be the first time in nearly a half-century the government has sold mustangs “without limitation,” or for any purpose, including slaughter.

    Horse slaughterhouses are prohibited in the U.S. but legal in many other countries, including Canada, Mexico and parts of Europe where horse meat is considered a delicacy.

    The Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burros Act that President Nixon signed into law in 1971 prohibits the inhumane destruction of wild horses. Congress approved an appropriations amendment in 2004 that allows the Forest Service, under its parent Agriculture Department, to sell horses without limitations if they’re over age 10 and have been offered for adoption three times unsuccessfully.

    But in most years since then, Congress has specifically prohibited the Bureau of Land Management, under the Interior Department, from using any appropriations for such purposes. President Donald Trump proposed allowing such sales in his 2017 budget, but Congress refused to go along.

    The Forest Service normally holds the horses it gathers at pens belonging to the BLM, which manages 385,000 square miles (997,000 square kilometers) of public lands in the West.

    Mustangs captured on federal range land roam a corral at a Bureau of Land Management holding facility north of Reno, Nevada, in 2013. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)

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  2. Modoc County Farm Bureau

    85th Annual Dinner/Auction Distinguished Service Recipient
    This year’s Distinguished Service Award went to Susie Stokke. Susie could have deservedly received this award during a previous career;

    She was also the organizational mind that conceived developing the Wild Horse Territory Plan through the Retired Worker Program and along with Rob Jeffers is responsible for its timely and efficient completion. This Plan was the essential first step in reducing the over population of wild horses.
    https://www.facebook.com/Modoc-County-Farm-Bureau-355141114541710/

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  3. From AWHC
    Prepared by Mary Koncel
    Incompetent and Dangerous Management of Corrals on Full Display at Adoption Event
    https://americanwildhorsecampaign.org/media/incompetent-and-dangerous-management-corrals-full-display-adoption-event
    (November 20, 2018) On Saturday morning, I returned to the Double Devil Corrals in the Modoc National Forest near Alturas, CA for the sale/adoption of recently captured wild horses from the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory. Seeing wild horses who weeks ago were living freely on our public lands now separated into pens from their band members – numbers spray painted on their backs to identify them and their age – was nothing short of heartbreaking.
    But on Saturday afternoon, the worst was yet to come – witnessing the incompetent and dangerous handling of the horses by members of the Modoc County Farm Bureau and wranglers hired by Farm Bureau representatives. (The Forest Service awarded the Farm Bureau a four-year $500,000 contact to help build and apparently operate the corrals.)
    That’s right, the Modoc County Farm Bureau, and specifically Laura Snell – a vocal pro-horse slaughter cattlewoman who shockingly represents the University of California as a cooperative extension agent. Ms. Snell has previously agitated on behalf of other cattlemen for the removal of wild horses from the Devil’s Garden Territory, but she has zero experience handling wild horses. Yet, she is apparently in charge at the Double DIncompetent and Dangerous Management of Corrals on Full Display at Adoption Event (continued)
    The predictable result of putting these inexperienced and uncaring people in charge was chaos, ineptitude, and trauma to horses as well as possible injuries.
    I’ll explain.
    While being escorted by Susie Johnson, a Forest Service staff member, to look at older or special needs horses for possible placement into sanctuaries and rescues, we stopped at a pen with about 25-30 geldings. Lying near the front was a small chestnut, estimated to be around 20 years old, in a small group of horses. In fact, a few minutes earlier, Leigh Sevy, Forest Rangeland Management Specialist, had approached me and a member of the volunteer placement group that found homes for horses captured in the 2016 roundup and has been working to place the horses currently in the pens at the Double Devil Corrals.
    Ms. Sevy was interested in placing the senior gelding because she was worried that he was stressed from being beaten up the bigger and younger horses.
    Ironically, just after she left to make arrangements to move him into safer holding, two wranglers on horseback entered the pen to sort out a horse who was either sold or adopted. The plan was to separate him from the other horses and move him through an open gate at the far corner of the pen and into an aisle that lead to the loading area for trailering.
    When the wranglers began to push the horses to where the older horse was still lying, however, a few people outside the pen asked them to stop because they were concerned that the wranglers couldn’t see him and that he could get trampled. In the response, one wrangler dismounted and got the horse up.
    But after that, the chaos began. As the wranglers continued to move the horses around the pen, trying to get the adopted/sold horse into the aisle, the other horses began to stampede, circling around and around the tight space of the 60’ x 60’ pen. At least one horse fell while others ran into the aisle and charged back out, with many of them crashing into the gateposts. This continued for several minutes, with the wranglers never backing off their efforts to move the horses.
    When I asked a Forest Service official watching this mess unfold who was responsible for hiring and training these wranglers, he responded “Laura Snell” and that the wranglers were learning as this was all “a new experience.”
    Almost immediately after this conversation, Ms. Snell came rushing over from the loading area to the same Forest Service official, complaining that “members of the public” were interfering with the wranglers’ work! One of the people she was referring to was me – simply for observing and raising concerns about the safety of the wranglers’ actions.
    In the past 10 years, I’ve attended over 15 BLM wild horse and burro adoptions across the country where hundreds of horses and burros have been sorted and loaded into trailers. Never once have I seen such utter bedlam.
    Devil Corrals and was the lead in sorting and loading horses, assisted by her summer intern and several wranglers who also had no wild horse handling experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Join the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition and University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources for the 2018 Rangeland Summit!
    Preventing Catastrophic Wildfire in California
    The Role for Livestock Grazing
    Tuesday, January 15, 2019
    Stockton, California
    9:00 am – 3:30 pm

    Speakers will include:
    Post wildfire grazing on public lands I Northern California – Laura Snell, UCANR, Modoc County

    Cattle Grazing to Manage Brush – Lynn Huntsinger, Rustici Chair, UC Berkeley
    Fire risk increasing unevenly on public and private lands – Van Butsic, UC Berkeley
    Prescribed fire in California: Bottlenecks and opportunities – Jeff Stackhouse, UCANR, Humboldt County
    Post fire grazing: How soon for multiple benefits? – Matt Shapiro, UCANR, Santa Barbara County
    California wild fire policy – What’s next? Will grazing be recognized as a tool?
    Ranchers experienced with rangeland wildfire

    https://calcattlemen.org/2018/12/11/2019-rangeland-summit-planned-for-january-15th/

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  5. Among all this bad news, note that Willie had a large visible melanoma (and probably more internally) and this may have been knowingly introduced into the humand and pet food chain, untraceable. And we call ourselves sentient?

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    • A few excerpts from Carla’s most recent post:

      Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Emergency Rescue–SAVE the DG 300 from Slaughter!

      Carla Bowers

      Please note, this Group page is for placing the older DG horses & not to discuss policy or politics. However, I must share this thought with all here: The end of the article places all the blame for rangeland damage on the DG wild horses.
      It fails to mention that 6-8K livestock have been grazing that same area for decades for at least six months of each year during prime growlng season

      Why else would the Forest Service build a corral at Modoc to hold a portion of the rounded-up horses if the intent is not to bypass congressional appropriations restrictions on unlimited sale, notes a Jan. 8 motion filed by plaintiffs’ attorneys in support of the injunction request.

      Modoc National Forest Supervisor Amanda McAdams wrote in a separate Dec. 20 motion supporting the forest’s effort to reduce wild horse populations that there are “members of the public who are supportive” of unlimited sales, including “local ranchers.”
      Ethan Lane, chairman of the National Horse & Burro Rangeland Management Coalition, which advocates for downsizing herds on public lands to sustainable levels, supports unlimited sales.

      https://www.facebook.com/groups/DevilsGardenWildHorseEmergency/permalink/202970747238444/

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    • Good! If these monsters are capable of being shamed – who is the more sensitive of creatures, I wonder? Certainly not the human.

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  6. This woman Fallon Blackwood should be barred from Vet school and not allowed to work with any animal, especially horses!
    She very obviously has some severe mental issues and is probably sociopathic. Disgusting!
    Hopefully she will be prosecuted to the full extent in this horrible travesty and will suffer as much as all of the devastated people (and their horses) have at her twisted cruelty. There is no excuse for this.

    Like

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