First, an animal "rescuer's" mistrial, and why her defenders should shut up:
Dawn Hamill was featured on Fuglyblog about a year ago, when her Painted Pastures Animal Rescue & Sanctuary was raided. Officials seized over 100 animals, many of them very sick, from filthy conditions. Hamill had 63 dogs, at least six horses, plus rabbits, pigs, goats, cats, llamas and sheep...on only three acres. Original news article and video here, along with an audio quote from Dawn herself, saying that she's totally innocent of any wrongdoing. Another article here. Multiple dead animals were found on Hamill's property, located in the suburbs of Chicago. One was a three year old mini mare.
Now, Hamill's criminal trial has been declared a mistrial. Larry Draus, the lead investigator and main witness in the case, has been charged with extortion in a case involving an illegal cigarette ring. Draus may not be able to testify, and if he can, his already shaky credibility will be further in doubt. Draus was criticized for sloppy procedures in Hamill's case. Although there's plenty of photo and video evidence of horrific conditions, it may not be enough now that Mr. Asshole Dirty Cop has tainted things. Many of the charges against Hamill were heavily dependent on Draus's word. It's unknown whether Dawn Hamill will face the same charges at a new trial, if there IS a new trial.
There are plenty of people who support Dawn vehemently, posting all over her Facebook, talking to the media, etc. They're all statements like this one:
I absolutely believe that Dawn worked hard for the animals in her care, and did her best. Her closest neighbors even said so. I believe she genuinely cares about animals. But she's still fucking guilty.
It doesn't matter how hard you're working, or how much you love your critters. What matters is how well the animals are actually cared for. It's obvious Hamill was struggling to give animals basic vet care and sanitation. No fucking wonder; spending just five minutes with each of 130 animals would equate to an almost 11 hour day. But you shouldn't say, "oh poor Dawn, look how she struggled," you should think, "this lady is a selfish, blind bitch for taking on dozens more animals than she can realistically manage."
Rescuing animals is a choice. Taking on dozens and dozens of animals is a choice. Dawn chose to take on so many that they ended up sick and filthy. She should be punished for that choice. Why is it that with any other crime, we don't much care about intentions, but with animal neglect, good intentions are a free pass? We don't have much sympathy for people who drive while drunk and then kill others in an ensuing cash. Sure, they don't mean to kill people, but they make bad choices that resulted in tragic deaths. Dawn didn't mean to make animals suffer but she did.
Every time I am tempted to adopt several more animals, I remind myself of stories like this. I could potentially support more rescue horses-- I've got a big pasture, I could scrape together more cash for winter hay, etc. But could I support many more horses and do it well? No. I know what my realistic capacity is. Dawn Hamill's lack of that same self-awareness is criminal.
Speaking of Good Intentions...
We move on to a tragic barn fire that killed at least 18 horses happened in McHenry, Ill. M&R Overlook Farm and Black Tie Stable was quickly devastated by a large fire a few days ago. The farm wasn't near any fire hydrants, forcing the 21 responding fire departments to truck in water. This slowed their ability to put out the blaze, and now there's nothing left of the large stable complex except blackened remains. Article and video here. The horses were mostly Arabians, and foals are among the dead. Madison Wallraf, a teenager who boarded at the barn, heroically entered the fire and saved many. However, some horses are still missing, and are either loose or dead but not yet found. Officials say the fire may have been started by a burning charcoal grill near the barn.
Don't have fire near the barn!
I can't think of anything more flammable than a barn. It's usually an old building, full of hay, shavings, dust, chaff, cobwebs, Neatsfoot oil, motor oil and gas for mowers and other machinery... so why would you risk having any kind of fire near it? My heart goes out to the owners and boarders at Black Tie, but their tragedy is a powerful reminder not to take risks. Pay attention to burn bans for your state, don't allow any kind of flame near your barn, and don't even have fire anywhere on your property if there's a decent wind. No one means to have a barn fire...but good intentions won't stop an errant ember.