“100 Wild Horses in Imminent Danger”
update October 4, 2016
Claims of more than 30 wild horses dying horrific starvation deaths fall upon a South Dakota charity that purports it preserves wild horses.
“It’s heartbreaking and devastating. There aren’t words when you’re here,” says Colleen Burns, the former senior project manager for the International Society for the Protection of Mustang and Burros (ISPMB).
Burns was fired Thursday after going public regarding the horses’ plight in Lantry. The 501(c)3 organization is home to approximately 650 horses.
A video shows horses suffering from what Burns says are various forms of neglect including untrimmed hooves so bad they can barely walk. The horses are not supplied with the necessary farrier care. Others are unable to rise due to their weakened state from a lack of nutrition as the land is barren. Their bones protrude from their slight bodies. A stallion’s penis is unable to retract after injury, although it is left without care, along with a mare’s visibly broken ankle.
ISPMB’s website states its goal is to prevent the elimination of unique wild herds with a model management program for wild horses. “I think its a miracle [ISPMB] lasted this long,” Burns says, adding the organization needed to start a horse management program 10-years ago because the group is in deep.
The charity’s lack of financial resources led some local hay suppliers to halt hay deliveries to ISPMB after debts went unpaid.
Burns says horses began dying in mid-June. She took her concerns to the non-profit’s long-time president, Karen Sussman, who is responsible for the management decisions surrounding the care of the four herds.
“[Sussman] knew full well what was going on,” Burns tells us. “She acted shocked. It was like there was a disconnect between her and her understanding of what was happening.”
Sussman witnessed the horses’ deaths or gave instructions for euthanasia by gunshot, Burns says. “[Sussman] wouldn’t allow anyone to make decisions regarding the horses, but herself.”
Those decisions didn’t allow for veterinary intervention.
By late August, Burns reports the once sporadic hay deliveries stopped. She took her concerns to ISPMB Board Member Cheryl Rowe of Rapid City. Rowe came to the property two days later and documented the neglect.
Rowe resigned at an emergency board meeting on September 4, 2016, after her attempts to discuss the horses’ dire needs were reportedly seen as an attack on Sussman.
Burns says a tongue-lashing is what she got from Sussman and ISPMB Treasurer/Secretary, Bobbie Meyzen, of Redding, CT. “I tried to affect change by taking it to the board and instead I was scolded by [Mezyen] like a school child.”
Meyzen allegedly admitted to Burns she knew about the horses’ deaths from starvation.
Jill Irvin, of Chandler, AZ serves as ISPMB’s Director.
The state veterinarian and Dewey County Sheriff department came to the ranch mid-September. Officials are monitoring the property daily to ensure the horses are now receiving hay.
Dewey County Sheriff Leslie Mayer says the criminal investigation into the horses’ alleged neglect is ongoing.
Burns says she hopes the organization and horses survive, but admits the current regime needs a change.
Sussman is facing a charge of felony grand theft in Perkins County for allegedly writing a bad check of almost $9,400 for hay. If convicted she faces up to 10-years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
“I was gravely concerned and I took steps,” Burns says. “I love these horses.”
We did not receive a response from Sussman prior to publishing.