Some of our (me and a few within our organization who have helped) greatest accomplishments have been to help keep funding for horse slaughter plant / feasibility study out of our state.
And bringing together for meetings our county and state officials, law enforcement, veterinarians, for meetings in Sioux Falls to try to organize a Sioux Falls Area Horse Welfare Committee. We had good meetings, but in the end everyone except a couple of us wanted to handle horse neglect cases the way most counties do: call the state vet, no prosecution, send horses to feedlot, salebarn & slaughter. that's what's easiest. At that time, I disbanded the group and informed all of the officials that our government does not have to help people get their starving horses to the slaughterplant. Horse owners can do that on their own. Talk about a waste of government resources. So, I have tried. Have you???
here is an update on how I feel about the ISPMB and Karen Sussman. And the way the county and state officials have handled this situation. Once again, treating the horses like the offenders.
Here is an update on my thoughts about the ISPMB and Karen Sussman's criminal actions regarding neglect of her 800 and some horses near Lantry, SD. I'm not going to go through the whole depressing thing. you can do a simple internet search and find it all.
here is a link to court documents that is very helpful though. Especially the Veterinary report at the end, which clearly shows that several types of neglect is definitely going on here.
Karen Sussman is responsible for the suffering these horses have gone through.
There have been people and animal welfare groups trying to help; thanks to those.
But once again, as it often goes in South Dakota, the county and state officials did not do the right thing. Oh they did the right thing for humans. No charges whatsoever. and just view the horses as money. Treat the horses as the offenders, not the victims. And protect the horse owner. This is typical in South Dakota. Not in all counties, but in many counties this is how it goes in horse cases.
If you do an internet search you will no doubt find comments, etc., from lots of folks thanking the county officials for doing such a good job and saying they have no choice, they have to send the horses to a salebarn. You need to know this is not true. These horses were impounded. The SD Animal Industry Board was involved, and so were the counties.
You will also find a lot of comments like this: well, if the only choices are starvation or slaughter, I choose slaughter. Weak, thoughtless humans. what kind of choices are those? What about the enforcement of the laws we have written. How's that for a choice? Maybe these situations wouldn't keep happening if the laws would be enforced.
anyway, I will never choose between slaughter and starvation. I will never believe or state those are the only 2 options. That is giving up. That is giving in. That is living in a cave, and thinking that just because this is the way it's always been done it's the way it should still be done. Doing the right thing can be hard, exhausting, time consuming. But once it's done it makes the future better and easier to handle. It takes great leaders to make these changes. Evidently our state does not yet have those leaders.
Take a look at some of these laws we have written. There were many options the officials could have gone with. They certainly could have charged Sussman like they should have. But look at all of these other options they could have chosen for the horses:
40-1-34. Disposition of impounded animals. An animal impounded under this chapter shall, within reasonable time at the direction of the board, any agent or officer of a humane society, or any peace officer be disposed of by:
(1): returning to the owner or caretaker;
(2) transferring ownership to a humane society ...
(4) sold through public auction
(5) transferring ownership to a suitable caretaker or facility . . .
(6) any other disposition as determined by the board, any agent or officer of a humane society, or any peace officer in accordance with rules promulgated pursuant to 40-1-25
And then there is this one:
40-1-35. Contract to enforce livestock provisions. The board may contract with a humane society incorporated pursuant to chapter 40-2 to enforce the provisions of this chapter concerning cattle, horses, sheep, swine, and other livestock.
Lots and lots of options.
So please don't believe for one second that "salebarn" was the only option.
What is happening is the horses are standing there eating hay which, of course is good, but they are getting fattened up for market. There will be killbuyers present at a public auction. Everyone knows it. The officials know it. Everyone knows it. This did not have to happen this way. Except for human greed and lack of willpower to do the right thing.
Geez, at least they could have charged her with neglect.
Here are a few notes from the court documents:
It is hereby Ordered that all live mustangs′ burros and horses owned by Defendant′ ISMPB and Karen Sussman′ located in Dewey and Ziebach Counties′ shall be immediately impounded and properly cared for by the Dewey county and ziebach County Sheri ffs or other designees pursuant to SDCL 40-1-5。
That there have been times ... that the ISBMB has been unable to and has failed to provide sufficient feed or care generally considered to be . . . accepted for said animals' health and well-being consistent with the species, breed, physlcal condition and type of said animals, in violation of SDCL 40-1-L
to SDCL 40-1-40. Attached hereto and incorporated by reference
is the ANIMAL WELFARE INVESTIGATION REPORT of Dr. Marc Hammrich, DVM, of the South Dakota Animal Industry Board,
AIso observed was a burial pit that contained 25 carcasses. These were in various stages of decomposition . . .Proper carcass disposal methods were not being followed and Ms. Sussman was advised of this. (could have charged her with that one too)
According to SDCL 40-l-2.3, neglect is defined as the failure to provide food, water, protection from the elements, adequate sanitation adequate facilities or care generally considered to be standard and accepted for an animal' s health and well being.. Many criteria of neglect have been identified. . .
Hay procurement needs to be completed immediately. Many animals are not receiving adequate hoofcare. Ownership does not appear to have the means, money, labor, and facilities to support and manage a population of animals this size and does not appear to have adequate plans to assure the future of this herd, Based on my findings as outlined in this report, it is my determination that animal neglect is present at this facility.
Signature Marc A. Hammrich, DVM Date: 9/15/16
Summary: Don't believe those who say "salebarn" was the only option. Don't believe those who say "starvation or slaughter are the only options." Don't believe those who say this was handled the right way. It was not. No charges? Disgusting. Shameful. Way to go South Dakota. As far as I know, Sussman isn't really from South Dakota, so it wouldn't have even been like charging one of our own. I hope she goes back to wherever she came from; her family should really come and get her and put her into therapy for hoarding etc.
Let's be clear. What is needed, what's always been needed in these cases, is enforcement of the laws we have written. And doing right for the horses, the victims. Charge the offenders. Prosecute. Include in the sentencing "no more breeding or no more ownership of horses." It has been in some counties I have worked with. No there were not 800 horses involved. But that's the thing. You handle it the right way in the beginning and it wont blow out of control like this.
I will keep advocating for horse welfare and enforcement of laws with the victims, the horses, in mind. I will not settle for the salebarn and slaughter being the answer. If more of us would speak up that way, some day, it will change. Probably not in my lifetime. I know that. But I will be able to rest in peace, knowing that I never gave up and I never gave in.