Neglected horse needs a home, love

Star and 16 others available through Adopt-A-Horse program in Clark County

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter



Did you know?

For people having temporary difficulty covering the cost of caring for their horses, Clark County Animal Control distributes vouchers from Ripley’s Horse Aid Foundation. The vouchers can be used for feed and veterinary care. Call Clark County Animal Control at 360-397-2488.


Want to adopt Star, Rebel or another horse in foster care or donate to the Adopt-a-Horse program? For more information, call a coordinator:

Pat Brown: 360-666-7978.

Darcie Canoy: 360-601-3390.

Lori Harris: 360-798-3515.


Horse rescue

Two malnourished horses were rescued near Yacolt December 26, 2011.

Two malnourished horses were rescued near Yacolt December 26, 2011.

A mare named Star and a gelding named Mister were found in a public road in north county the day after Christmas.

Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Tim Gosch contacted Clark County Animal Control. A nearby horse owner agreed to temporarily house Star and Mister.

Based on the Henneke Scale — 1 is bone thin, 5 is ideal and 9 is obese — Star was rated a 2.5.

Mister was rated a 1. His tailbone and ribs were protruding; he had a leg injury.

Whatever food Star and Mister had been foraging had not been enough. The horse’s owner, contacted by Animal Control officers, admitted she could not care for them and turned them over to the county.

After a consultation with a veterinarian, it was decided Star could be nursed back to health. Mister, who likely had damage to his internal organs, would have to be euthanized.

“He was basically a skeleton,” said Animal Control Officer Bill Burrus, one of two officers who responded to Gosch’s call.

Star could tell what was going to happen, said Darcie Canoy, a program coordinator with the Clark County Executive Horse Council’s Adopt-a-Horse program.

“They had such an amazing bond,” said Canoy, who, with fellow volunteer Mike Schnicker helped Animal Control officers with the horses on Dec. 26.

When Star was separated from Mister, she kept calling for him.

“She had to be sedated,” Canoy said.

After Mister was euthanized, she led Star over to say goodbye.

“She put her nose down and sniffed him,” Canoy said. “She lifted her head, and you could see this instant change over her. She straightened up, and she didn’t call out for him again.”

After three weeks in foster care at a north county home, Star has put on weight but still looks thin. She weighs about 900 pounds and should weigh closer to 1,100 pounds, Canoy said. The spiny cockleburs that covered her and Mister were painstakingly removed the day they were rescued.

She has a new playmate named Rebel, a 3-year-old fellow foster horse.

What does Star, thought to be a thoroughbred and 18 to 20 years old, need now? A permanent home.

Star, Rebel and 15 other horses are up for adoption through the Adopt-a-Horse program, which takes in only horses referred by Clark County Animal Control.

The Adopt-a-Horse program provides a critical service, said Burrus.

When officers find dogs running loose, they can take them to the Humane Society for Southwest Washington.

With horses, the county relies on the Adopt-a-Horse program to find available stalls, Burrus said.

In a county with an estimated 30,000 horses, the encounter Gosch had on Dec. 26 isn’t too unusual.

The owner of Mister and Star remains under criminal investigation for animal cruelty, Burrus said, but she has not been arrested. If criminal charges are not filed, the owner is likely to face civil penalties: cruelty to an animal ($250 fine for each horse), animal in a public roadway ($100 each) and inadequate fencing ($100 each.)

Horse neglect and abuse cases have been on the rise, a fact officials attribute to the economy.

“A lot of people have to have priorities, and horses aren’t on the top of that list,” Burrus said.

Other owners just don’t realize all the care horses need — including clean stalls, fresh water, quality hay and waterproof blankets to help keep them dry during cold, wet nights.

Paul Scarpelli, manager of Clark County Animal Control, said in 2011 that Animal Control officers responded to 1,339 livestock cases. Approximately 80 percent of those cases involved horses, but the number of horses was just 183. Most cases took more than one visit, and some took a dozen or more, Scarpelli said.

In some horse cases, the county does not return the animals. In others, such as in the case of Star and Mister, the owner gives them up.

The Adopt-a-Horse volunteers are invaluable, Scarpelli said.

The nonprofit organization has helped care for 87 horses in Clark County since 2007.

The group accepts donations and earns money by refurbishing saddles and other equipment, and reselling it at horse shows. The group could use a utility trailer for gear, Canoy said.

And, most of all, homes for horses such as Star and Rebel.

A good owner will have enough money to pay for food and regular veterinarian care and have a well-fenced property, Canoy said.

Beyond food and fences, there are a few other requirements.

“They need love and attention,” Canoy said. “Just sheer love itself will do amazing things.”

Stephanie Rice:;;