Monday, December 5, 2011

the story of our Jack Frost, a little horse who died of starvation in South Dakota in 2005, when US horse slaughterhouses were still open

Six years ago? oh my, I've been doing this way way too long.
Six years ago, Dec. 6, 2005, which was also a Tuesday, we said good bye to Jack Frost. We could not save him. His neglect was too severe.
Notice the year: 2005.
US horse slaughterhouses were still going.
Why then, did this little horse starve to death?
And why were there no charges? The availability of horse slaughter does not decrease horse neglect.
South Dakota: let this be a warning. We have been involved in horse starvation and rescue for more than 10 years here. It's the same whether there is US slaughter or not. The only time there was a glimmer of hope was when our law enforcement was actually doing something about these cases. But now, with no enforcement of these laws, these neglectful horse owners are just making a joke of our laws. And they know they will not get in trouble. Bringing horse slaughter back will make things worse. There will be even more irresponsible breeding, there will be more horses not fewer. We do not need more horses! We need fewer foals to be born, not more.


Sweet Dreams, Sweet Little Jack Frost.
I will smile now every time Jack Frost is nipping at my nose.

Here is the story of Jack Frost, who lives with our Sky Herd now. The story is told by a DoubleHP Volunteer.

For months, residents of a small SD community watched and talked about this situation, but did nothing to help this horse -- until it was too late. What is especially tragic about this story is that it happened right in town, not far from a feed elevator and a church. Residents talked to each other about the situation, and one person told us the Sheriff's Department “had been watching it too.”

Finally, when it was too late, DoubleHP was called. It was an all-too familiar situation. The landowner and another person were arguing over two little horses. Neither wanted to claim ownership. The landowner finally transferred ownership of the horses to DoubleHP. That doesn't make everything alright, but it did allow us to try to help the horses. We DO believe there should have been charges of inhumane treatment to animals. But we often are unsuccessful when we try to convince county officials to do that. Sometimes all we can do, as volunteers with no legal authority, is to help the horses and then make an educational point related to that case; hoping that, with each story we tell, we can touch at least one human heart & mind, and save at least one other horse from suffering this way.
In the case of this little colt, Jack Frost, while the horse owner is really the person to blame, what about the residents who knew and talked about the situation, but still didn't get help for the horse! And what about the Sheriff's Department who, we were told, had known about these horses for many months! (in fact, the sheriff showed up as we were carrying Jack to our trailer. We had to make slings and pretty much carry him to the trailer, because he was too weak to walk. The Sheriff did not offer to help; he just watched. We kept our mouths tightly shut, hoping he would not interfere with our rescue. He did not.)

Laws regarding horse neglect are tough to get enforced in our state; however, horse neglect IS against the law in our state. And when the situation is as obvious, visible, and severe as this one was, it still just seems unimaginable that not one person could or would help this horse. A month, maybe a week, would have made a difference for this little horse. But it was just too late; there just wasn't enough left of him.
When a life is at risk, even if it's just a skinny little horse, that is not the time to look the other way. That is not the time to mind your own business. And that is not the time to pretend something is right when you know it is not. What happened to Jack Frost was not right, and it was so preventable and so unnecessary. Jack Frost was a nice, flashy, straight-legged little colt that anyone should have been proud and happy to own.

We will tell you Jack Frost's story now, with the hope that we will touch at least one human heart & mind; thus, make life better for at least one other horse.

A woman called us on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2005. She told the story of two young horses across the street from her who were enclosed in a fenced area with no food, water, or shelter. And the storm was to hit that night. They had been there for many months, but she hadn't realized how skinny they had gotten because it was dark when she drove home at night. She said the story really began last summer, when the horses were running loose around town. So they were fenced in, and there they stayed. She said the Sheriff's Department knew about the situation even at that point. That was in June, nearly 6 months before Jack Frost died of starvation. And now, the woman said, there was no food, the water was frozen and, with the storm coming, she didn't think the young horses would survive much longer.
The woman who called us said that the landowner was willing to sign the horses over to her or to DoubleHP. There was a document that said the landowner was now the horse owner too. But we knew we could not get there in the middle of this storm. So we convinced her to get the horses into her barn for a few days until we could get there to pick them up.
The next morning, Monday, Nov. 28, they got the two horses into her barn. But the little horses had already spent a night out in the storm. And the whole community was without power. This was the storm that left thousands without power, and the county where this happened had been hit harder than most. But on Monday morning, they got the filly into a stall. The colt had a hard time making the journey; he was already so weak. They did get him into the barn, but he went down on the cement floor before they could get him to the stall. He could not get back up, and so there he lay until DoubleHP could get there.
The people who got the horses into their barn were able to get a nice layer of hay under the colt. And they kept him covered up as best they could. But he did want to get up, and so every time he thrashed around he would undo his bedding and blanket, and his little body was getting full of sores from lying down and from trying to get up. Still, he was hanging on. The woman would sit him up whenever she could. And he did have a good appetite and would drink the warm water that they warmed up for him on their gas stove. Even when he was lying flat on his side he would continue to eat the hay that he could reach around his head. But he still wasn't able to get up, and they didn't know how to help him get to his feet.
We maintained telephone contact with them whenever we could, whenever they could get a signal for their cell. phone. We didn't think we could get there before Thursday, according to the storm reports. But on Wednesday morning, when the colt still couldn't get up, and the reports called for the storm to start back up that afternoon, we knew that this was our best chance to beat the storm.

Four of us left Sioux Falls at about 10:30 that morning. We didn't get too far north before we realized we really had not beaten the storm at all. It had started back up much sooner than the weather guys had predicted. Still, the truck & trailer seemed to be handling OK. And as long as we could keep going, we would. And we did. We made it to our destination around 1:30 p.m., and there were 3 people waiting to help us.

We got the filly safe in one section of the trailer. Then we made slings out of bed sheets for the little colt, and we got him safely into the trailer too. He wanted to stand up, so we let him. He didn't have very good control over his legs; afterall, he had been lying on them for two days. So we held him there for a while, but then he was able to stand on his own. For a little while. But we helped him back down for the long trailer ride. His will to stand and eat gave us new hope and enthusiasm.

We had called ahead to Dakota Large Animal Clinic near Harrisburg, SD. They are equine specialists, and their heated stall was waiting for us. They called us as we were driving home though and asked if there was any way we could overnight somewhere else and bring the colt in the morning. They said it was just storming too hard there for us to make it safely. We didn't think it could be any worse than what we were already driving through, and we didn't know if the colt could survive another night on his own. So the Clinic agreed that one of their Doctors who lives near the Clinic would meet us there when we called.

It was after supper when we got there. Dr. Jensen and a Tech from the Clinic helped us get the colt into the heated stall, took his vitals, and got him going on IV. There was plenty to be worried about. He was in serious shape. If the body condition score system included negative numbers, that's what the colt would be. But One is the lowest it goes. Below that is Death. The colt was somewhere in between. Still, his will to eat, drink and stand - his will to survive - gave us some hope. Still about 30 miles from home, with the storm getting worse, we needed to leave. He was warm, dry, had food, and a Doctor would be back in the morning. The filly was already eating non-stop in a different stall. While she too had a low body condition score, her vitals were not too far off and she seemed comfortable in her stall. We decided it would be better if she were not in with the colt, since he couldn't get up; and we didn't want her to step on him or get caught up in his IV.

We needed names to write on the horses' charts. Blizzard and Jack Frost seemed appropriate.

Eleven hours after we left Sioux Falls that morning, we were back home doing our own chores.

The next morning, Thursday, Dec. 1, Doctor Todd from the Clinic called. They had the results from the colt's bloodwork. White count four times as high as it should be. Protein, red count & calcium extremely low. The serious parasite infestation that was suspected would contribute to all of that; as would, of course, the starvation that this colt had suffered. His body temperature was holding at about 99. His heart rate was still high. They needed to start fighting parasites and infection if the colt were to have a chance.

On Friday, Dec. 2, the colt was still unable to get up. His temp. had dropped to 96. To get an accurate comparison, they didn't want to do bloodwork again until Monday, three long days away. He was still eating and drinking well. But the Doctors were getting very worried and had started to prepare us for euthanasia.

Saturday morning four DoubleHP helpers went to the Clinic to try to make the best decision for Jack Frost. He surprised us though. We got him up on his feet.

He was alert, his eyes were bright, he walked around on his own, he ate a lot, drank a lot, played in his water bucket, and did not seem to be in pain. He even took a playful bite at the sleeve of one of his helpers. We figured that was Jack Frost nipping at his nose, except a little off target.

Still plenty to worry about though. His heart rate was still very high. He had serious diarrhea. He had many body sores from lying down so much. His overall body condition score would still have been between One and Death. We made three trips to the Clinic that day, to get him on his feet and let him walk around and eat and drink standing up, like a horse. He wanted to be up. Sometimes we had to lay him back down. Sometimes he would lie back down by himself. His back legs were still so weak. We decided that, for now, we would just go session by session. Rely on the Clinic for meds., and rely on DoubleHP helpers to get the colt up on his feet. Science vs. emotions. A difficult challenge, but we were able to meet in the middle.

The next day, Sunday, we made three more trips to the Clinic to get Jack Frost on his feet. He was hanging on. No major changes, except he could not get rid of the diarrhea. We were anxious to hear the results of the bloodwork they would do the next day.

Monday morning, Dec. 5, his temp. was back up to 99, close to normal. The blood results were in. The white count had dropped considerably, but Dr. Todd warned it was possibly because he just wasn't able to produce any more, in his emaciated state. The rest stayed about the same. Which wasn't good. Still no protein. And a really big worry now: On the chemistry panel, the numbers now indicated the beginning of kidney failure. Slight, but the Doctor told us she feared that is where we were headed.

The filly Blizzard, in the mean time, was recovering nicely. As Jack Frost got weaker, she seemed to get stronger. As though Jack were giving his strength to his little friend Blizzard. She recovered so well we decided she was ready to leave the Clinic and go to her foster home. We got her moved that day, and then met back at the Clinic that afternoon to get Jack Frost up again. He walked around some and ate some, but his appetite wasn't as strong as it had been that morning. Monday evening his diarrhea was even worse. He still wanted to be up, but he wasn't as strong as he had been the day before. He didn't eat much. And his body sores were adding to our problems.

We made the decision that Jack Frost would go to heaven the next morning when the Doctor could meet us there. We would be there with him, and we would be there to thank the Doctor for her help.

When we left him that night, we gave him extra bedding, made sure he was completely warm and dry and that he had a good drink and had plenty of hay around his head.
We told him what a good horse he was and how beautiful he was. We thanked him for being our friend and for trusting us, even though it was humans who had done this to him. We told him how strong he was for never once complaining about the terrible hand he had been dealt. And we explained that even though this wasn't the excellent, permanent new home he was hoping we would find for him, we thought he would like it just fine once he got there.

And then the next morning, Tuesday, Dec. 6, we said good-bye to Jack Frost.
His euthanasia was completely calm and peaceful. And it was the right decision.

Sweet Dreams, Sweet Little Jack Frost.
I will smile now every time Jack Frost is nipping at my nose.