Rescue group alleges animal control ‘not doing job’ in starvation case

  • Monday, June 9, 2014

Photo Provided A nonprofit rescue group says animal control isn’t doing enough for this emaciated horse. But animal control says the horse is improving.

The rescue organization that worked with the county to save a burned, starved horse two years ago is questioning Berkeley County Animal Control’s efforts in an active starvation case — but officials contend that the county is doing its part in the case.

LEARN Horse Rescue founder and director Elizabeth Steed said that the organization was made aware of an emaciated horse near Highway 176 in Berkeley County three months ago. At the time, Steed followed up with the county.

She said she was told the animal was seen by a large animal veterinarian and was being monitored.

But now, three months later and the horse still thin, Steed said she suspects the horse isn’t getting adequate care.

“Animal control is obviously not doing their job,” she said.

County Planning Director Eric Greenway — who oversees animal control in the county — confirmed that no veterinarian has been consulted on the case as of May 30. However, Greenway said animal control is working with the owner to get the horse healthy. He said the horse has been making progress, and the agency won’t seize the horse unless its condition deteriorates.

“The horse is responding favorably to the plan,” Greenway said.

Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis said the county’s role is different from the roles rescue groups play.

“The animal rights groups don’t fully understand what our role is in animal control,” Davis said. “They want us to get more into animal rescue, which is what they do.”

According to the county’s ordinances, violations include failure to provide veterinary care and adequate food. The ordinance also allows seizure of animals for violations. However, all action is at the discretion of animal control officers.

Steed said it’s the county’s job to ensure proper care of animals — food, shelter and water.

Steed and LEARN were involved in the 2012 rescue of a burned, starved horse and another thin horse. Whisper and Traveler soon made national headlines as country singing legend Willie Nelson initially offered to adopt the horses.

While the deal with Nelson eventually fell through, the horses were successfully rehabilitated on LEARN’s dime.

According to Steed, problems with Berkeley County Animal Control were evident during that case, too. She said officers refused to seize Whisper, even though he had burns and maggots in his festering wounds. The owner eventually released the horses into LEARN’s care, she said. Now she’s concerned that the same officers are providing incorrect nutrition information in the recent case.

“In three months of proper nutrition, horses will not still look that way if there is nothing wrong with them,” Steed said.

Steed has successfully rescued and rehabilitated more than 300 emaciated horses as the head of one of the Lowcountry’s equine rescues. “There’s certainly a breakdown here. I’m not asking them to be a rescue … they need to enforce their statute. There’s probable cause. The horse is not gaining weight and you got a vet saying it’s not under his care.”

Steed said she has called Greenway to offer LEARN’s help on educating the owner but has not received a phone call back. She said her ultimate goal isn’t to seize the horse, but to get the horse healthy and the owner educated. “They (animal control) need to do their job and use the resources they have available, especially free resources,” Steed said.

Greenway said that he has worked well with LEARN in the past, but has not worked with LEARN on this recent case because the horse is improving.

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