The Otter Creek Ranch neglect case has been going on for months and months now-- years, actually, if you count the abusers' previous properties. I will never understand how cases like the recent one involving Sean Legault get attention ASAP and the horses involved are seized, while hundreds of other horses linger at deaths door for an eternity while cops do nothing.
If you missed hearing about Otter Creek, you can read my previous posts about it here, or visit the relevant Facebook page, but the situation is basically this: Married couple and long-time abusers Brenda Weierke-Feist and Michael Feist own Otter Creek Ranch in Polk County WI, where at least 80 horses have been starving and living in filth. At least three dead horses were found on the property, and autopsy reports confirmed that they starved to death. Michael Feist was eventually charged with 34 counts of abuse... but is still allowed to keep all the horses. Even after he threatened a deputy with a sledgehammer (a deputy assigned to check on the horses) he's walking around free, and his horses are staying put.
Countless times, rescue groups and private individuals have talked to the Feists and offered to take the neglected horses off of their hands. Each time, the Feists have refused. Now, however, they say they are ready to part with some... as long as you pay them thousands of dollars. Yes, you read that right. The Feists are attempting to sell off part of their herd, and are selling four untrained 4 year olds for $500 or $750... and all the other sixteen horses are priced at $1,500 to $15,000 dollars! Check out this sterling example of the horses they have for sale at ridiculous prices:
|This photo reproduced here under section 107 of the Copyright Act (Fair Use) "...for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting..." etc.|
Ugh, if this is a horse the Feists consider in good enough condition to sell, I don't want to see the ones they AREN'T showing us. As for this poor thing being valuable... Quick everybody, raise your hands if you know of a local auction where you can pick up a thin, over-at-the-knees, grade Appaloosa like this for $200 or less!
Let's take a quick peek at Otter Creek's top-priced horse, a 2005 stallion named Tommy.
Hmm, this guy is sickle-hocked and tied in at the knee, he has a decent shoulder but a rather poor loin coupling... hey, is that jumper's bump back there? If so, bam, lumbar pain to deal with. What the hell were the Feists thinking, standing to stud something with this conformation?! And they want to retain breeding rights?!! I am utterly flabbergasted.
This picture was taken in 2013 and he's pretty thin. I wonder what the poor fellow looks like now that he's spent the winter in the hands of a man charged with 34 counts of neglect. I wouldn't buy this horse for $1,500 much less $15,000! Yet, I suppose the price does make sense in a way. People who neglect animals are very often delusional about what they're actually worth.
Speaking of delusional, if you are interested in buying any of the Feists' horses, they are very very adamant that you abide by a long list of rules... including allowing them to do a credit check, presenting photo ID, only looking at a maximum of two horses, you can only bring one other person with you, and you can't take pictures. Hell, sounds more like a prison than a horse farm to me!
Here are the rules in full, and my comments (click to enlarge):
Some people are debating the ethics of buying horses from the Feists. It's a great question: should you pay an abusive owner for a horse, just to rescue it? What if they demand that you pay way more than the horse is worth? With every particle of my being, I hate the thought of giving money to (i.e. rewarding) horse abusers. However, it's the horse that's important, and giving an asshole a few extra bucks might be worth it, especially if you know he's not going to buy another horse with it. In the end, I'm on the fence on this one, and I think the "right" answer is always going to depend on the circumstances of a particular case.
Speaking of tricky moral questions, let's move on to the Juslaine LuMaye strangles case.
In case you haven't heard, another one of the ten horses dumped on Kelly Radtke's property by JL a month ago has died. This one died at home with her owner, who had entrusted LuMaye with the mare's care and training. Some care! A third horse may die soon-- bastard strangles is breaking out all over her body, and she's pretty weak. Despite the best efforts of Kelly, vets, and the owners of the other horses, things don't look great.
The moral question here is this: The greedy horse dealer JL has offered Kelly $1,000 to get her six horses back... despite the fact that she owes Kelly thousands of dollars. Should Kelly sell the horses back to Juslain, the very woman who caused them to become so endangered?
"No, never!" you cry. And I totally understand that sentiment. But Kelly is pretty deep in debt over all the extra vet and feed bills, stressed out over caring for the sick horses 24/7, anxious not to infect other horses, and in short, running out of options. Just imagine if someone dumped a herd of sick horses on you! You might not be so charitable.
No one else is going to buy these horses at this stage. Not in winter, certainly not when the outbreak of strangles is so fresh, and not when it may mean getting entangled with the likes of JL. So what is Kelly supposed to do? She's at her wits end.
You know, we could save Kelly from having to make that awful choice. We can do that by donating to the relief fund set up by her friend.
UPDATE: According to Kelly, Juslain's mother showed up, paid Juslain's bills, and took the horses. Kelly had no choice but to give up the horses, as she couldn't legally hold them once she was repaid. God help those poor things, and any other animal that winds up in Juslain's hands.
OK folks, I am running out of steam and daylight. My own rescue horses are calling! Let's wrap this up with a few very brief updates.
- Barb Thiry did manage to pay another $350 towards the care of her two neglected stallions, currently being held in protective foster care. Her next court date is March 18th, where her public defense attorney will attempt a motion to get some pictures of Thiry's Kewaunee County farm dismissed from evidence.
-Sean Janas's trial is also about a month from now. May she rot in hell. I'll be posting the contact info of the judge in this case soon, so you can write and request that Janas get the longest sentence possible.
-I am still looking for any information on a possibly abusive horse owner & dog breeder Amy Mateyka. Please email me at email@example.com or message me on Facebook.
-I will be attending the Equine Nutrition Seminar at UW Madison tomorrow, Feb 22nd. I hope to see you there, and I will definitely be reporting on all the great info I get there.
As always, readers, stay tuned to northhorse.org for all the WI horse news!