International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros is allowed to keep & breed horses
LANTRY, South Dakota––The fate of the remaining horses at the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros ranch straddling the Dewey and Ziebach county lines in north-central South Dakota was on January 27, 2017 “settled” on terms which may bring an eventual recurrence of the crisis of the past five months.
The sheriffs of Dewey and Ziebach counties in October 2016 impounded 810 mostly malnourished horses, responding to an affidavit filed in September 2016 by former employee Colleen Marie Burns, who alleged that as many as 30 horses had already died of starvation, and to affirmative findings by South Dakota Animal Industry Board veterinarian Marc Hammrich, who on September 14, 2016 discovered the remains of about 25 dead horses on the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros premises.
Agreement forestalls auction
About 270 horses were adopted out before a December 1, 2016 deadline set by agreement among the involved law enforcement agencies, the South Dakota Animal Industry Board, and the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros.
The remaining 540 horses were to have been auctioned off in mid-December to enable Dewey and Ziebach counties to recover expenses incurred in feeding the horses for several months. The auction was repeatedly postponed and relocated, however, while the South Dakota Animal Industry Board, Dewey and Ziebach counties, and the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros negotiated new terms, to avoid the risk that the horses would be acquired by killer-buyers and trucked to slaughter either in Canada or Mexico.
Fleet of Angels
Under the new agreement, explained Rapid City Journal staff reporter Seth Tupper, “520 horses taken from the society’s ownership will be transferred to the ownership of Fleet of Angels, a Colorado-based nonprofit that provides crisis management and transportation for horse-related emergencies in the United States and Canada.”
Said Fleet of Angels founder Elaine Nash, “Fleet of Angels and our partner organizations didn’t participate in the deal making, and had no voice in the negotiations.”
But in view of frequent conflicts between Sussman and Fleet of Angels volunteers, the January 27, 2017 settlement agreement provides “That the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros shall have no involvement in Fleet of Angels handling of its horses, including the manner in which the horses are fed, cared for, loaded or transported or any other decisions regarding disposition of said horses,” and “That the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros shall not interfere with Fleet of Angels activity in any manner.”
ISPMB to keep 20 Gila Bend horses
The agreement also provides that “Horses that are not capable of adoption due to age, physical impairment or other circumstances that make them unadoptable may be euthanized.”
But the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros is allowed to keep 20 horses from the Gila Bend region of Arizona, and is permitted to let them breed.
The original 30 Gila Bend horses brought to the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros in 2000 had increased to 139 when the 810 horses were impounded.
“The settlement,” wrote Tupper, “prohibits the society from allowing its 20-horse herd to grow beyond 40 horses during the next five years and says the horses will be seized if that happens. Among other conditions, the settlement requires the society to undergo, for the next 18 months, quarterly veterinary inspections, and other inspections as scheduled by the sheriffs of Dewey and Ziebach counties, and to pay the counties a total of $10,000” toward covering feed costs during the past several months.
Quarterly veterinary inspections during the next 18 months, however, would permit the 20-horse herd to nearly double and could potentially end with enough mares pregnant to allow the herd to triple.
Cause for skepticism
Inasmuch as the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros turned out to have 810 horses when president Karen Sussman told media including ANIMALS 24-7 that there were “only” 600, there appears to be reason to be skeptical that voluntary reports of horse numbers on the ranch will be accurate.
Added Tupper, “Fleet of Angels and another nonprofit, Return to Freedom, of California, said in a joint media release they would work to find suitable placements for the horses at approved homes, sanctuaries and rescue facilities.
“The agreement allows the rescue organizations to keep the horses at the society’s ranch for up to 60 days while conducting the adoption campaign. The media release from the rescue groups also said they may relocate their 520 horses ‘to a more suitable adoption hub.’”
Money, or lack thereof, remains a critical issue for all parties. Those parties who were involved in the January 27, 2017 settlement appear to have reached it in large part to avoid further costs associated with litigation.
“Dewey and Ziebach counties predict their impounding-related costs from the past few months will reach $200,000 when all the bills are tallied,” reported Tupper, “but Dewey County State’s Attorney Steven Aberle said the counties will be reimbursed for most or all of those expenses.
‘Through December 29, 2016,” Tupper continued, “the counties had spent $156,735, but had been reimbursed $52,000 by the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros, $11,714.14 by donations from the public, and $15,000 by a grant from the American SPCA, leaving $78,021 yet to be reimbursed. Aberle said Fleet of Angels agreed to pay that amount.”
More bills coming
Continued Tupper, “The counties are still compiling costs incurred since December 29. Aberle said the $10,000 paid by the society as part of the settlement will be applied to those bills, and Fleet of Angels has agreed to pay the rest.”
Fleet of Angels and Return to Freedom also face ongoing expenses for care of the horses estimated at $40,000 per month.
The International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros meanwhile owes debts of $90,005 and $30,323 to two hay suppliers, and is under judicial order to pay them.
What becomes of the unadopted?
Apart from the monetary issues, the Fleet of Angels and Return to Freedom adoption efforts will necessarily compete with Bureau of Land Management efforts to place about 45,000 wild horses who have been removed from the drought-depleted western range in recent years and are currently in holding pens at a variety of locations.
Several prominent advisors to U.S. President Donald Trump have already worked in a variety of elected offices and private capacities to reopen commercial horse slaughter in the U.S.
In September 2016, meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board recommended that the unadopted horses should be killed.
Opposition to contraception
The recommendation came only hours after the BLM announced that it had abandoned a plan to surgically sterilize more than 200 wild mares at the agency’s Wild Horse Corral Facility in Hines, Oregon, due largely to opposition to the scheme from the Cloud Foundation, American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, Front Range Equine Rescue and Friends of Animals.
Earlier, Friends of Animals and Protect Mustangs filed litigation, and threatened to file more, to stop a trial of a horse contraceptive called ZonaStat-H in the Pine Nuts Mountains of Nevada.
Friends of Animals, founded in 1957 to promote surgical sterilization of dogs and cats, has opposed the introduction of various chemosterilants for a variety of species, especially dogs, cats, and horses, since at least 1991. Just under $2 million of the total Friends of Animals budget of $6.5 million in the fiscal year ending in 2015 was raised in connection with the FoA surgical sterilization program.
ISPMB changed missions
The International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros, founded in 1960 by Velma “Wild Horse Annie” Johnston, was instrumental during Johnston’s lifetime, 1912-1977, in winning passage of a variety of local, state, and federal legislation to protect wild horses, culminating in the Wild Free-Ranging Horse & Burro Protection Act of 1971.
Following Johnston’s death, the society was headed for 12 years by Helene Reilly, who was among the founding board members, and then passed to current president Sussman.
Sussman, 69, relocated the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros in 1999 from Nevada to South Dakota, and brought wild horses from four different herds to the premises. Under Sussman, the horses were simultaneously allowed to breed to “conserve” their purportedly unique bloodlines, and were presented as experiment in “natural” horse population control, without the use of contraceptive measures.
Alliance with FoA
The International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros herds predictably quadrupled in less than a decade.
But Sussman meanwhile found influential allies in Friends of Animals and the FoA subsidiary Friends of Wild Horses.
Friends of Animals repeatedly made much of Sussman’s self-proclaimed success in “natural” herd management, and helped Sussman to raise funds, but appears to have said little about either Sussman or the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros since the October 2017 impoundment.
In January 2017 alone, however, Friends of Animals reiterated opposition to Bureau of Land Management plans to contracept wild mares in the North Lander Complex of Herd Management Areas in Wyoming and the Pine Nuts Mountains of Nevada, and applied for an emergency injunction against a BLM plan to contracept wild mares in the Cedar Mountain Horse Management Area of Utah.