Fate uncertain for 39 horses kept in 'deplorable' conditionson October 19, 2012 @ 2:44 pm (Updated: 5:30 pm - 10/19/12 )
Another woman distracts one of the animals with a carrot as Malone sneaks in to change its water.
The women are among roughly 100 volunteers who were eager to help care for the horses after they were seized from a man in Graham, Wash. last month.
"We just love them," said Malone. "It is definitely my passion. I just - I love it."
On Sept. 26, acting on a tip from federal authorities, Pierce County Animal Control seized 39 horses from a property in the 30800 block of Meridian East.
Supervisor Brian Boman said the conditions were "deplorable."
"(There was) standing urine and feces. We discovered some medical issues. Some of the barns had no light to little light," said Boman, who is now tasked with keeping the animals safe. KIRO Radio was asked not to release the location where the horses are being held.
Boman said many of the animals have become visibly healthier and easier to handle.
"They've calmed down quite a bit. We can go into the stalls with no issues," he said. "It's been a lot better."
The Washington State Animal Response Team was called in after the seizure to coordinate volunteer efforts. Over the past three weeks, volunteers have given up almost 2,000 hours to care for the horses.
"Some of these volunteers are driving several times a week from Snohomish County. They are coming up from Olympia several times a week," said WASART co-founder Gretchen McCallum. "They're all putting their lives on hold so they can help these horses. Phenomenal - that's all I can say about them."
McCallam said several chapters of the Back Country Horsemen also responded to help in the effort.
Meanwhile, taxpayers will have to foot the bill for food, shelter, and veterinary care.
"Whether they're in our custody as evidence or whether they become our property through forfeiture, we have a duty to provide them with the very best of care and basically rehabilitate them," said Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson.
The Pierce County Auditor's Office, which is responsible for animal control, has set aside $40,000 from a contingency fund to take care of the horses. The fund is in place in case of emergencies, such as an election recount.
"Taxpayers really can't afford this," said Anderson. "A seizure of this size is not something that you budget for and it's not something that you expect."
"We're going to have some tight races in this Nov. 6 election and now I'm out of contingency money. Let's hope there's not a recount because we've spent our contingency on these horses."
Dr. John Diller, the owner of the horses, has filed a petition to have them returned. At a hearing scheduled for Nov. 1, he will have to prove that the horses will not suffer future neglect or abuse.
"The burden of proof is on him to prove, with evidence not promises, that he is able to take care of all of these horses and that they won't suffer any harm by being returned," said Anderson.
Diller's attorney, Lance Hester, said two local veterinarians will testify that the horses were well cared for.
"The horses have never been abused, they've never been neglected," he said. "The horses are beyond a hobby. They are part of Dr. Diller's life and family. He misses them and he wants them back."
Should the horses be surrendered to the county, the auditor's office will begin a public adoption process following any criminal proceedings.
To date, the public has donated $11,000 to help care for the animals. Those wishing to help should visit PierceCountyWA.org, or send a check to the Pierce County Auditor's Office at 2401 S. 35th St. #200, Tacoma, WA 98409.
If you wish to volunteer with the Washington State Animal Response Team you can send an email to email@example.com.
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