Authorities put down sick horse
Animal Control officials intend to seize at least five Mustangs from a ranch on Spenceville Road after one horse, reportedly suffering from malnutrition and hypothermia, was rescued by neighbors and put down by a veterinarian.
Senior Nevada County Animal Control Officer Bruce Baggett said he will seek a seizure warrant in Nevada County Superior Court Wednesday morning so he can round up several underfed horses at Pam Fyffe’s ranch on the 12000 block of Spenceville Road.
If he is granted the warrant, he said, animal control officers, sheriff’s deputies and some hired cowboys from the local horseman’s association will take the horses Thursday morning. The horses would then be handed over to people equipped to take on the responsibility of boarding a horse, screened by animal control officials.
“Several people have already come forward,” Baggett said.
Animal Control officials were first alerted to a report of animal abuse on the 45-acre, 40-horse ranch Friday night, when neighbor Lynn Lise called to report one of the horses was so underfed that it could not stand.
“The horse was hypothermic and starved,” Lise said. “It was laying there stuck in the mud.”
She said several neighbors covered the horse with a blanket and stayed with it through Friday night. On Saturday morning, Lise said, more neighbors – approximately 10 families – arrived with a tractor, a sled and a horse trailer and hauled the horse out of the mud and to neighboring property.
Animal Control Lt. Ron Earls said the horse was technically stolen, so it could not be used as evidence of animal neglect, but the horse’s condition gave Baggett enough reason to investigate the conditions of the other horses on Fyffe’s ranch.
Baggett said the condition of several of the skinny horses he saw was “unacceptable.”
Neighbors were able to contact Fyffe, who lives out of the area, and she gave a veterinarian permission to put the horse down Saturday.
Fyffe lives on another ranch in Marin County, Baggett said. She did not respond Tuesday to notice of her right to a pre-seizure hearing. She had 48 business hours after her notice Saturday to respond.
Her failure to respond to the notice gives Animal Control the right to request a seizure warrant in court, Baggett said. He said evidence suggests Fyffe was purposely breeding the formerly wild Mustangs, which she purchased from the Bureau of Land Management, but there is no evidence Fyffe was selling the horses.
Neighbors say no one had been at the ranch to care for the horses for nearly three months, though during that time the horses grazed on the pasture and had access to drinking water.
A woman caretaker reportedly stopped working at Fyffe’s ranch in October, and no one was seen on the ranch again until two weeks ago, when Fyffe reportedly hired a few more caretakers.
Baggett said since Animal Control got involved, the horses have received more food.
Lise said several of the neighbors noticed the horses’ deterioration for months.
“This horse suffered for two months,” she said. “We’ve learned that if you see something wrong, you should report it immediately.”
However, she said, she was impressed with the community effort to save the horse Saturday.
To contact staff writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@ theunion.com or call 477-4236.
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