IDA Rescues Starving Horses in Arizona

Rose Lang, Police Officer Butch Gunnells, and IDA's Dr. Pat Haight stood next to the trailer in which a five-year old starved Peruvian Paseo stallion and two malnourished six-month-old fillies waited to be taken to safety. Rose shouted, "This is the most amazing horse rescue in history!"

The story began weeks earlier when Dr. Haight was contacted by Rose and several horse rescue organizations who had read two stories published in Showlow Arizona's White Mountain Independent. The stories chronicled the fate of 18 registered Peruvian Paseo mares, stallions, and fillies.

In June 2001, a resident of the area noticed the horses. They were huddled in one corral, starving, eating their own droppings and mud in the corral. The resident filed a complaint with the Arizona Department of Agriculture's Livestock Inspection Services. Livestock Inspection sent Investigator Travis McGill to look at the horses and assess the situation. On the day the inspector arrived, one of the horses succumbed and died. The others had filthy water and no food. The inspector did not seize the horses under Arizona's horse seizure law and did not request an autopsy on the dead paint. Local citizens were outraged but did not know where to turn. Their calls to the livestock board resulted in livestock inspectors making visits to monitor the horses but refusing to seize the animals. Rose Lang and Officer Butch Gunnells would not give up.

Rose contacted animal organizations across the country, called her Arizona representatives, and even hired a plane to monitor the health of the horses. Butch offered to adopt all the horses but after his kind offer, the horses were moved to another location. IDA contacted Rose, Butch Gunnells, and reporter Jo Baeza, who had written stories about the starving Peruvians and had visited the animals several times. Based on information and pictures they provided, IDA's Dr. Pat Haight contacted the Arizona SPCA, Arizona Senator Tom Smith, and the Assistant Director of Agriculture, Mr. Al Davis. After meeting with the Agriculture Department, Dr. Haight realized the livestock board had no immediate plans to seize the horses. Dr. Haight arranged to make a trip to see the horses and offer to adopt them.

Thirteen of the Peruvians were still in corrals located on a remote parcel of land in Eastern Arizona on October 6, the day Dr. Haight visited them. Five had been taken back to Tucson. The "owners" of the horses had not allowed anyone on the property and had repeatedly indicated they would not consider any offers for the horses. However, Dr. Haight, an Arizona native, struck up a conversation with one of them and secured a commitment from him to consider the adoption of two very young fillies and an injured stallion to her. Last week the adoption was finalized. On October 18, Butch, Rose, and Dr. Pat guided the two fillies and stallions into Butch's trailer and took them to safety.

With their new names of Senorita Sunrise, Senorita Midnight, and Conquistador, the two fillies and gentle stallion will start new and safe lives where they are loved and cared for. IDA continues to work with Officer Gunnells, Rose, and the Arizona SPCA to assure the safety of the remaining 10 horses.

Sadly, this is not an isolated instance in Arizona. Earlier, Rose had rescued 8 horses from a similar situation in which, again, the livestock board refused to seize the neglected animals. Even when seized, horses face a terrible fate in Arizona. Most are taken to auction and sold to slaughterhouses unless rescue groups can outbid the meat industry.