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April 8, 2008

The Impact On Rescue

For Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society of Washington County (Md.), the Danley case has a familiar ring to it. His group helped to coordinate what is believed to be the largest livestock seizure ever conducted in Maryland—the rescue of 74 horses in Sharpsburg, Md., in December 2006. (The horses’ owner, Barbara Reinken, eventually entered an Alfred plea in April 2007 to one felony count of animal abuse and guilty to 10 misdemeanor counts, according to the Herald-Mail.)

“Large animal seizures are a major drain on your agency,” Miller said.

Just the process of executing the search warrant and removing the animals from the Sharpsburg property took four days, an all-hands-on-deck effort in itself, he said.

Then there was the matter of caring for the horses—feeding, mucking stalls and tending to injuries—for several months as the court case slowly progresses. The Humane Society was also flooded with donations and offers to volunteer, which staff members had to coordinate. And while all this is going on, the everyday work of running the organization, caring for and adopting other animals must still be handled, Miller noted.

Then, a month or two after the seizure, the publicity will fade—donations slow, volunteers stop coming. Yet the rescue organization must continue to care for the horses until the courts award them custody and the animals can be put up for adoption, a process that can take several months. More than a year after taking in the Sharpsburg horses, the Humane Society of Washington County still has seven of them. Other organizations, like Days End Farm Horse Rescue, still have Sharpsburg horses as well.

“It’s a bad time to be trying to place horses,” Miller said. “We need homes for them. We need to move on.”

Loudoun County Animal Care and Control is currently housing the 48 Thoroughbreds seized from Dennis Danley at its shelter in Waterford, Va. Most of the horses are doing well, gaining weight and starting to show their personalities again, said spokeswoman Laura Rizer. One horse, unfortunately, deteriorated and had to be euthanized.

A judge has already awarded ownership of the horses to Loudoun County, so the group is working on moving the horses into foster-to-adoption arrangements. But first, they must figure out who all the horses are and try to track down any part-owners.

The publicity surrounding the case has already brought an outpouring of support from the close-knit equestrian community in the area. The shelter had an existing volunteer base of about 50 or 60, Rizer said, but 50 new volunteers have signed up just to help with the seized Thoroughbreds. About $5,000 in donations have been made as well, she added.

Those interested in volunteering, adopting horses or making a donation to support the Loudoun County horses can get more information online at http://www.loudoun.gov/animals or by calling (703) 777-0406. Homes are also still needed for many of the Sharpsburg horses—visit http://www.hswcmd.org or call (301) 733-2060 for more information.

 
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