South Dakota officials filed a motion seeking an ownership transfer of the remaining horses from a purported mustang sanctuary to “a suitable caretaker”.
The state’s animal industry board and two county’s state attorneys are asking a judge to help ensure that the 540 horses have proper care. The International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB) horses remain in a tenuous position after authorities impounded the herd in October.
Some of the horses could face euthanasia, due to their physical impairments and other issues that make them unadoptable, documents state.
Weather conditions make caring for the horses difficult. Last month’s horse auction was canceled, so the horses have endured subzero temperatures, heavy snows with blizzard conditions, and low wind chills. It is unknown if all of the horses have survived the blistering conditions.
The court stepped in initially after a state veterinarian investigated complaints of equine neglect made against the non-profit’s operator Karen Sussman.
Marc Hammrich, DVM determined Sussman neglected the horses. “… many of the horses were emaciated and in poor body condition due to [a] lack of proper feeding going into this year’s winter.”
The filing of the motion comes after Sussman failed to meet official financial and care standards. Sussman “demonstrated [the] inability to properly provide care for the horses in the past and the inability to provide assurance of the future care of the horses,” Dr. Hammrich said.
Two non-profits are looking to take over the care and expense of the horses upon the court’s approval. The Fleet of Angels provides a network of horse transporters, and Habitat for Horses is a Texas-based horse rescue.
Dewey County has paid $156,735 since it impounded the horses in October to feed the animals. ISPMB reimbursed the county $52,000. In late December, there was a balance of more than $78,000 still owed. That number grows daily.
Sussman is represented by attorneys from Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson & Ashmore, LLP.
The judge will hear the case at 9 A.M. on January 27 at the Ziebach County Courthouse.
UPDATE: Habitat for Horses was not involved with the horses.