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Animal Welfare shrugs off another neglect case

Published: 3/29/2010
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By Maddy B. Gray

Rest In Peace, Sam.
Jennifer Howlett, a Maine Animal Welfare agent visited Sam early this month in Presque Isle and said he was fine.
Agent Howlett reported that he didn't look too bad and the case was closed. She dismissed the complaint, we're told. NickerNews filed a Freedom of Access Act request with Animal Welfare regarding this case. In response, Director Norma Worley sent a notification letter stating that the case is still under investigation and that, as yet, no report has been filed.

Sam was a 20-year old Appaloosa gelding who suffered greatly when his owner divorced from her husband and left the horse with the man, who lacks horse experience.

Sam, registered as "They Cut Me," had been to the World Appaloosa Championships and was the MeApHA Champion in 1999 and 2000. [See bottom photo of Sam in his prime.]

So we can shake heads and our fists at the couple whose thoughtlessness and neglect caused such harm. One might think this would be an obvious case of animal cruelty. But what happened next compounded the problem and certainly contributed to his death.

Sam suffered from horrendous heaves, a massive eye injury and was grossly underweight when the complaint was filed.
When Howlett visited him, she said the eye didn't look that bad and dismissed the heaves. And those protruding hip bones looked that way because he was "big boned," according to those who spoke with Howlett.
She rated Sam a "4" on the Henneke Body Condition Scoring System and saw no reason for a vet to examine him. (An email to Animal Welfare was not returned.)
Shortly after the Animal Welfare visit, friends were finally able to convince the owner to surrender the horse.
Joy Duncan of Presque Isle stepped in to try to save Sam. A day after removing him from the farm, Duncan's vet scored him at a "2" on the Henneke scale. As most folks know, it can take time for horse neglect to show.
[See article on weight loss and gain, click here, then scroll down to excerpts of research project.]
It's not likely that a horse would slip from 4 to 2 over the course of a few days.
She worked with Sam for weeks and managed to put over 100 pounds on him. But in the end, his heaves overwhelmed him.
He was euthanized today, March 29.

Says Duncan:

"Sam suffered horribly when he didn't have to.
Jen Howlett can't spell horse....She's a nice woman, but she really should not be out there examining horses without someone with her that knows the front end from the back.

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3/29/2010 Joy
Sam's case is yet another example of why the Animal Welfare Program in Maine needs to be revamped and quickly. This animal was left to suffer because the humane agents in this state are not properly trained to deal with horses. A very small amount of intervention on their part may have saved the life of this animal but instead he had to be destroyed because the abuse went untreated for far too long. My veterinarian indicated that this was nothing more than "pure neglect" on the part of this animals owners and yet those who should have stepped up to help him simply walked away. It's time for the abuse of animals at the hands of our Animal Welfare Program to stop....
3/29/2010 Jan
So sorry for your loss Joy. If Sam had a chance at all, you certainly gave it to him. Thank you for all you did for him .. May he run healthy and free!!!
3/29/2010 Becky
I'm so sorry Joy for what you and Sam both had to endure. Sam was well trained, competed and won many awards for his owner, was well behaved. He did not deserve to be treated so poorly for all he gave for years on end, makes me very mad! But it happened. When someone found him in poor condition they did what was right, they called Animal Welfare and file a report of neglect, this is the way these matters should be handled. Animal Welfare failed this horse miserably, as miserably as his owners, if not worse!!!! This is not the first, or the second, nor the third horse that was grossly failed by Maine's Animal Welfare Program. There are documented facts of this happening over and over again. Until EVERYONE speaks up, LOUD and clear, demanding change, sadly, Sam will not be the last........... PLEASE make your voices be heard and help end this, once and for all. Animal Welfare needs to step up to the plate, NOW!!!!
3/29/2010 Margy
Maddy thank you for putting Sam's story out there, and thank you Joy for all you have done! You are so right it is time for change!
3/29/2010 Janet
Joy i am so sorry to here about sam.It is pretty sad when animals in this state have to go through this kind of pain and they get there dam pay checks .and thank you maddy for helping get the word out how bad it is to be a horse in the great state of maine.
3/30/2010 Kim
I just am so saddened by the loss of this wonderful animal and the manner in which it occurred leaves me speechless. I can't hold any respect for someone who deliberately puts themselves before their children or their animals. Both are innocent and helpless without our help. This was completely unnecessary and it shows that some people have no conscience. I would strongly recommend that the people who did this steer VERY CLEAR of the horse industry in our area for a very long time. There is little compassion or forgiveness when someone spent so many years preaching about their knowledge and abilities only to see what really happened in the end. These people are not openly welcome in a the circle of horse people. You did a wonderful thing Joy, and though I sort of got you into it, I knew it was the very best place he could be for whatever time he may have had left. (as suggested to me this morning by another fellow horse owner.. "The previous owners should be poked in the eye with a stick and left to starve for a year". I think I agree
3/30/2010 Joy
Just thought that I would clarify that I am not putting total blame on the humane agent that worked this complaint although I do believe that after several years in this position she should have realized that something just wasn't right with Sam. I realize that they are stretched far and wide across this state and their hands are tied by Norma Worley on many things and this may have been one of them. I fault Norma for not putting trained agents on the streets and for that reason alone they fail these animals. The problem is not necessarily her staff, it's their leader or lack thereof....time for a change people...make it happen!
3/30/2010 Linda
Joy, Thank you for believing in Sam and making a good home for him. I am sorry he was in so much pain. He was a beautiful animal. I feel your grief...
3/30/2010 Margy
No the whole blame is not with the agent but the agent saying there was nothing wrong sure gave the adults who were supposed to be responsible for him a clean slate! So Wrong! She shouldn't be doing the job if all the training she has had hasn't taught her enough to tell Sam was in trouble.
3/30/2010 Joy
I agree 100% Margy. The publics perception is that these people know what they are looking at and therefore trust them when they say that nothing is wrong. The people who made the original complaints likely felt that they must have been wrong and went on with their lives. The owners also believed that nothing was wrong with their horse because an Animal Welfare Agent said so......and we all know the rest of the story... No one is ever going to be able to convince me that Sam was ok two weeks prior to being moved to my home. This animal had been suffering for a very long time and it was obvious to other people or there would not have been complaints made that prompted the visit in the first place. He should have been seen by a vet....PERIOD....and maybe he would still be alive today.
3/31/2010 Julie
Oh how terribly sad for the horse, Sam, and for his new caregiver, Joy. My heart goes out to you. I am thankful that Sam is not suffering anymore. What makes me angry is that he should never had to suffer in the first place. Note to Animal Welfare...ALL eye injuries are cause for immediate vet exceptions!!
3/31/2010 Kim
He was NOT alright a week or two before. His eye had been damaged and gone for well over a month to a year, according to the Vet who saw him...So, that leads me to believe that no one with any knowledge had seen him, or if they did have knowledge, they just plain didn't care. He had an episode, again, according to the examining Vet that night, where he saved Sam from respiratory failure in the middle of the summer. So his illnesses have been there for awhile and were blatantly too much bother for the owners..of which there were two. But the almighty dollar was more important to obtain by selling him than a good home to care for him. We see how well that worked. And the report that was made and the resulting visit by Jen, was questionned as "a ploy for someone to get the horse for nothing". PUUULLEEEZZ
3/31/2010 Joy
I am very saddened to think that backsides are being covered at the expense of this animal. In speaking with my veterinarian who has spoken with Augusta it's ringing loud and clear with me that this is a no win situation. "They" have indicated that Sam was ok when they were there to see vet can only attest to what he saw the night that we brought him in and cannot disprove their findings because he was not there. "They" say that anything could have happened in that two week period. "I" say THERE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN COMPLAINTS MADE THAT DREW THEM OUT THERE IF THE HORSE WAS OK!!!! And then two weeks he later had to be destroyed. Come they think that I am stupid? I will never sway from my thoughts that this was not handled properly and that these agents need to have an equine specialist with them because they obviously do not know what they are looking at and animals are suffering because of it. I honestly do not know how these people sleep at night. I am repulsed.
3/31/2010 Gregory
From people i've talked to the Maine Welfare agent was there the first week in March and noticed that the horse was fine. Joy took control of the horse two weeks later after the agents visit and after 10 days in the care of Joy he was put down. It sounds to me she didn't put my effort into saving him...I don't understand how a horse can get that bad in two weeks time espically after a Maine Agent has visited the animal...
3/31/2010 cc
this story is so sad we raise these animals for our own use they deserve respect this was so uncalled for divorce or no divorce you took the animal you OWE IT to give it a better life if you can not you put it to sleep or hand it over to someone who can care for it properly there is no need for this i have been divorced and yes they are hard but i had animals that still needed care and i gave it to them it is not the horses fault or the dogs fault you got a divorce it is your fault why should they suffer cause your life is a mess . people need to make plans for there animals before disaster strikes not after the fact i have it planned if i die my older animals will be put down the young ones friends are willing to take and ...they did not ask to be your horse or dog or cat you picked them be responsible ... im sorry for the loss to the person who stepped in to do the right thing and lost the battle you are a good person wish we had more like ya .
3/31/2010 Joy
I took an animal in that should have been vetted by his owners and wasn't. He should have been seen by a vet for his eye injury at the very least when the Maine Agent was there but he wasn't. I brought him to my house and spent many sleepless nights and lots of $$$'s trying to fix their screw up and you have the nerve to say that "I" didn't give this animal a chance? Sorry, but that is just TOO FUNNY!!!Sam didn't get that way in 2 weeks time, you're right!!! He suffered a LONG time and no one did a damned thing about it.
3/31/2010 cc
joy .dont listen to what others say if it is negative you did what you had to due according to what your vet said to do at least you can sleep at night knowing you did the right thing just sorry the horse had to suffer for as long as he did humans are so cruel when they dont have to be it is a choice people make
3/31/2010 Rick S.
I was this horses farrier years ago. He was one great guy. You had to love him. The owners were not stupid people - they knew horses. They just didn't care. As for Ms Worley, head of animal welfare for the state, she's a bureaucrat and her hands are tied. That's her story and she's sticking to it. Don't expect much from her. I learned that years ago dealing with her when I was involved with an animal welfare organization.
4/1/2010 Joy
Thanks Rick...he was a great horse. I would sit and drool over him every time that he set foot in the show ring. His presence was so large and he certainly deserved better than this at the end of his life. As far as Norma goes...I will never hold my breath where she and her department are concerned but plan to move on and put my efforts in to the Maine Equine Welfare Coalition that I became a member of last night. The group is filled with equine enthusiasts with many years of experience and I just know that we can do the job in this state that our animal welfare program can't seem to get done. We sure could use knowledgeable farriers on board!! I'll be sure and let you know where we'll have the next meeting set up at here in Presque Isle so you can attend if you'd like...:).
4/1/2010 Chris St.Cyr
Sooo sorry for you loss. Has anyone heard of a follow up on the horses from Fair Play..I know many had been moved or sold...whats up with them?
4/1/2010 Elaine
This is just stupid. Everyone is blaming everyone else. WHO CARES! The point is the horse needed care. Everyone is trying to complain or trying to get credit for this or that. This is a good example for the Maine Coalition. 1. NO ONE is going to give up a horse if the recuer gives a blow by blow daily account on a public forum. 2. People are going to be afraid to give up a horse if there is an article published on a website of the horse's story after it was rescued. 3. When the rescue goes bad -- no one is going to listen to the case if you are blaming this one or that one. 4. No one is going to believe the story if THAT story is not completely accurate including the timeline. Stick to the facts as people will begin to question the story. CAN'T everyone meet in the middle? Joy - I'm not knocking you at all so please don't think that. It is not easy to first commit to that animal, then step up to the plate for its care, then spend lots of money, then be devastated if the case goes bad. I commend you for it. But somewhere along the line we lost our step process for success to a rescue. THE GOAL IS -- to get a neglected horse the care it needs. Its not about humans. Humans need to step up to the plate, commit to the project no matter what, shut up and the award will be one more has been helped from neglect.
4/1/2010 Margy
Thank you for narrowing that time frame down for us for when the Maine Welfare agent was there, that is a big help. As one of the 5 horse people who were present shortly after Sam came off the trailer on March 18 I can assure you he was not fine then. The pictures you see here on this report were taken that night, Thursday March 18, 2010. I can assure you that every effort was made to reverse the condition Sam arrived in. It just wasnt in the cards. To make a statement like.. it sounds to me that she didnt put effort into saving him, is mind boggling. you werent there. Nor do you have any idea of the actual cost in $$ let alone human emotion this kind of rescue takes. No this horse did not get in the condition he was in, in two short weeks, however saying especially after the Maine Agent visited the animal?indicates that visit made it all right. That just proves my earlier statement that because the agent didn?t require a veterinary exam and didn?t give a fair assessment of this horses condition that the uninformed make the assumption that he looked like he did in Oct. when the agent saw him and that just isn?t so. The agent said his hips stuck out like that because he was big boned. Horses are not cattle they are not supposed to have dairy character.
4/1/2010 Joy
With regard to people not wanting to surrender their animals for fear of being persecuted on a public forum -- I guess I am guilty but I have to ask you what "case" are you talking about? The Animal Welfare Agent left that day and told the owners that the case was closed. Had I just taken the animal in and not said anything to anyone then who would have known that they did not do their job? Should people simply ignore that type of thing and just let life go on? I do not ever go in to situations like this expecting anything back for myself...not ever. It is always for the animal. Sometimes you just have to be the squeaky wheel in order to get the grease and for Sam I am going to squeak as loudly as I can until I get some answers as to why he was left there and not seen by a vet. I will not stop until someone listens.
4/2/2010 Kim
I do not agree at ALL that it should be hush hush. Too many cases go under the wire. We feel obligated to get the information out. It is more to prove the lack of responsibility by the State than the owners. IF those people can have the lack of conscience to do that to the animal then they sure as heck aren't gonna be worried about surrender. These people still dont' think they did anything wrong. It's like any other abuse or neglect, keep it quiet and no one will know. That's nonsense. The State doesnt' intend to do anything to correct the issue, so I guess a good old public forum allows people to express how they feel. It might not be the best way to do it, but in our current situations around the state, it appears to be the ONLY way anyone will listen. Besides, if you read the BDN today, there are healthy cows roaming around a neighborhood but the State is threatening to seize them...COZ THEY APPEAR HEALTHY and they can get rid of them easier than an animal in illhealth and starving to death....

"There are no problem horses, only problem riders" - Mary Twelveponies