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Animal owner refutes claims

Pamela Fyffe says her neighbors overreacted when they stole her sick horse from her 45-acre ranch, then told Animal Control authorities she neglected the animal.

“It’s a situation that got out of hand,” she said, sitting in her attorney’s conference room on Litton Road in Grass Valley Thursday. “It was an emotionally charged event.”

Fyffe, a marketing consultant and entrepreneur from the Bay Area with another ranch near Napa Valley, says she visits her ranch on the 12000 block of Spenceville Road once a week and closely monitored the 40 horses she keeps there.



She was letting the 23-year-old Spanish Mustang live out its older years – as a favor to a good friend, she said – until she decided it was time to put it down.

“I cared about that mare,” she said, adding that she had ridden with its former owner since 1988. “It was losing weight, but it was not in pain.”




She said the old mare appeared fine on the morning of Feb. 3, the same day her neighbor Lynn Lise called Nevada County Animal Control at 5 p.m.

Lise said the skinny horse was so weak it couldn’t stand up, and it was laying in mud.

“The horse lost its standing for the first time that day,” Fyffe said.

Unfortunately, Fyffe said, the caretakers she hired in late December to watch the horses, Justin and Amee Ortega, were in El Dorado County for most of that day to visit Mr. Ortega’s sick grandmother.

Ortega, who sat next to Fyffe in the attorney’s conference room Thursday, said he returned to the property that evening to find the horse in the mud and several neighbors, including Al and Lynn Lise and Bob and Sue Hoek, on Fyffe’s property.

“There was a ton of mixed emotions,” Ortega said.

Ortega called Fyffe, who drove from the Bay Area to be with the horse. She said she left again at 2:30 a.m. Saturday. Several hours later, Ortega called Fyffe again to say the neighbors were taking the horse.

“I did not give permission for that,” Fyffe said, adding that she had a spot in a barn ready for the horse and had already called a veterinarian, but the neighbors refused to take the horse to the barn.

Later in the afternoon, Fyffe said a neighbor called her to get her permission for a veterinarian to put the horse down, and Fyffe granted it.

“I would have liked a call from them earlier,” she said. “The neighbors were upset seeing an animal laying in a field and I can appreciate they were concerned, but I wish they could have called me sooner.”

She said she has not decided whether she will press charges for theft.

“I’m not the sort of person who wants problems between neighbors,” she said. “I would never steal anyone else’s animal.”

Nevada County Animal Control Sgt. Bruce Baggett, who was called to the scene by the neighbors Saturday, said Monday he intended to seize several of the horses on Fyffe’s property because they were underfed and in an “unacceptable” condition. He posted notice of a pre-seizure hearing on her front door.

Fyffe said she never received the notice because she used the side door to her home when she visited.

Baggett interviewed Fyffe on Wednesday and determined the horses appeared gaunt due to prolonged nursing of the mares by the foals, who were not weaned soon enough.

On Thursday evening, Baggett wrote in an e-mail that the investigation into Fyffe’s horses continues.

“We have done research on this breed of horse, Spanish Sulfur Mustangs, and learned that it is extremely common for foals to nurse on their mothers for way too long,” he wrote. “It has something to do with comfort for the foals. I also spoke to an expert on this breed of horse who has had extensive dealings with them and said that the ones in the wild look really bad because there is nobody to wean them purposely, yet they do just fine. He said that sometimes, the foal will be as large as the mare they are nursing on.”

To contact staff writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@theunion.com or call 477-4236.


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