Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lets Look at Some Cases! Case #1, NH.

Whew! What a crazy couple of weeks. I have been working my posterior off and apologize for taking do so long to get back to posting. I know all 3 of you readers must have been hand wringing, whinging and agonizing about when I would come back and post! That would be. . . now!

Not only has it been a busy couple of weeks at work, but its been a busy couple of weeks for the topic at hand—animal welfare and abuse. There were so many cases from all ends of the spectrum and all over the country that I just wanted to see how some of them turned out.

I think most of us are very much pro-animal welfare legislation. The few that aren’t probably do not read my blog. I am. I am very very much in favor of some kind of regulation and legislation that protects animals and does not leave everything in the hands of uncaring, uneducated, unable or just downright nasty owners.

What I do not know is how to fairly and effectively enforce such legislation. Well, that is not true. I do know: Lots of money, proper training, active oversight and continuing education. Put me in charge. Guidelines and standards to be applied would do a lot of good too. But that is simply not the reality and it is too much to ask for. It’s a very young idea to actually enforce the laws designed to protect animals, so many of the kinks have not been worked out. Oh, hell, that’s not true either. I do court appointed cases for child neglect and abuse and its just as kinky as animal law, but its been around for a lot longer.

I am going to do an around the nation peek at some recent cases with comments. This is not designed to stir up controversy or enrage or engage the masses to revolt, its just to show how the same goals and types of laws get applied in completely random and unexplainable ways as we struggle to learn how to operate the machine of animal welfare laws. But the owners often have the same, predictable reaction.

First case is the most recent on my personal radar—the seizure of some horses in New Hampshire.

CANDIA – Twelve horses were seized from a property in town on Monday over concerns about shelter and welfare, according to police.

Charges are yet to be filed and the investigation is ongoing.

Brian Travis of 456 Critchett Road said the Arabian horses, owned by his wife, Heidi Fredrick, were seized from his horse farm.

He said the horses are perfectly healthy and alleged they were taken because of a dispute with Steve Sprowl of the NHSPCA.

Two veterinarians from the New Hampshire Society for the Protection of Animals were on scene, but NHSPCA director Lisa Dennison referred any questions to the Candia police department.

Police chief Mike McGillen said he could not comment further as the investigation is ongoing.

Here's their own video:

So here is what happened. The horse owners moved from Colorado to New Hampshire. There seems to be some information that they had neglected or abandoned or did something to the horses in Colorado too. Or other horses.

NH has laws about the care of animals. The owners violated some of those laws. They were required to have a very specific amount of shelter for each horse from Fall until Spring. Unlike the SC statute I posted, “shelter” was defined down to the square footage per horse. They were required to have current Coggin’s papers on all horses and should have had health certificates before moving the horses into NH from CO. In addition, they were required to provide adequate feed and water.

In November of last year the SPCA came by to do an inspection and advised the horse owners of the shelter regulations. The owners responded by building some shelters, but nowhere near the amount required by law. Then an ice storm hit and the shelters they built became useless.

Next, for some reason, they contacted a local rescue to come and take a large portion of the horses. The rescue could only take 3 horses. So 3 went to the rescue and the rest remained. Last week the SPCA showed up to seize some of the horses. They cited the lack of shelter and some of the horses being in poor condition as their reason in addition to lack of proper paper work like Coggins.

They did not take all the horses. All the horses they took were not in poor condition. They did take all the horses in poor condition, but did not take all the horses without shelter. So about half the horses remained but still did not have adequate shelter.

The owners of the horses are of a political persuasion that holds private property is private and they can do whatever they wish with their private property. Like Kindergarten children, they have thrown fits about the horses being seized not due to any concern over the horses, but because they were MINE MINE MINE and you can’t have them! Not even the ubiquitous “but I love them and they are my babies and you took them!”

The owners are backed up by their political compatriots who make reasoned arguments that any owner of property will make sure that property is kept in its best and most valuable form and therefore its is illogical to need any government intervention to make sure animals are cared for. This does make a tidy thesis, but it does not account for some animal owners being lazy, stupid, cruel or too poor to do what is best for their animals.

As the story unfolds it appears, IMHO, that perhaps it is possible the horse owners in this case were some of the above. They knew the law on shelters and had known it since at least Nov. They chose to ignore it. They did have the community support that is now rallying around them to build shelters before winter came and the horses were seized. They chose not to do that. They at some point did not feel they had the financial ability to support all the horses and looked to a rescue to . . well. . .rescue the horses. They did not try and sell these valuable animals. Instead, they sought to give them away to a place for horses that needed to be saved. They have an excuse for why 1 horses was skinny—he is a stallion and fretted over the mares—but they do not explain why they did not move him away from the mares or just feed him more. No excuse for the other 5 skinny horses has been offered.

Next they say they were unaware of the need for a current Coggin’s test on the horses or the health certificates. However unlikely that is, given their claim of being experts in horse care and that they had valuable show and race horses, ignorance of the law is no defense. They say the government has no right take their horses over some “paperwork”. That is an excellent topic for a philosophy class, but try telling it to the IRS.

So they ignored the laws, some knowingly and willingly, gave substandard care to some of the animals and got caught. At no time have they shown any concern over the horses’ welfare or made any reasonable explanations as to why they had failed to provide shelter or feed. All they do is deny that horses need either shelter or feed.

What makes this case interesting is not that the horses were in horrible shape. They weren’t. They were helped before things got that bad. Its is interesting because if you look for more information and read the BBs and comments and statements made by the owners and their supporters, you get an instant education in the concept that animals are personal property and what you do with them ain’t nobodies business but your own. In their own words and in the extreme. Frankly, I can’t replicate it here and you should go read it yourself. Google the owner’s names and the comments will appear.

The other interesting aspect is that although the SPCA knew since Nov. the horses had inadequate shelter, they left them all though the winter, an ice storm and 3.5 more months before they went to get them. And when they did get them, they did not get them all. I really do not have enough information to know why 12 horses were chosen and not all if only 6 were in poor shape, but it could just be they had nowhere to put them or had hopes that the owners would self correct if given enough time. Remember, the owners themselves recently sought to get rid of the horses because they could not care for them—weeks before the seizure. Perhaps it was felt that they had enough shelter and could care for half the horses, but not all of them.

But its an interesting case and a prime example of the argument that the Government has not right to regulate how you care for your animals. They do not regulate how you care for your car or your boat or your TV unless you infringe upon the rights of others, so why should it be different for animals? The answer is because animals have rights to certain protections as long as those protections are in the code of laws. If you do not like those laws, do not move to that state. If you are already there when the laws are passed, work through the political process to get them changed, but if you just chose to ignore them then do not be surprised when you lose your property.

My personal belief is that I should have a right to all shellfish offered for sale at any time I am hungry because I really like shellfish. I can make up all kinds of arguments about how its my natural right to have that seafood, but if I take it without paying, should it come as a shock to me that I get punished? If I do not understand why I am punished and in fact refuse to understand the whole concept of laws and obeying laws and that laws apply to me no matter what my personal beliefs are, then I should probably get locked up somewhere safe and padded. Somewhere with shrimp.

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