Sanctuary extorts money from horse owner

By: Patti Strand  Date: 01/16/2012 Category: | Shelter Issues |

In early April, High Speed Flight disappeared from her stable in Monterey County, California. In early May, after reporting the horse stolen and conducting an exhaustive search, her owner found the mare at Redwings Horse Sanctuary less than two miles down the road.

When Cheryl Fayter knocked on their door with proof of ownership, Redwings balked.

Fayter said a sanctuary staff member told her that the mare they called Sunshine "is not your horse," that they had received a "substantial donation" for her, and that she was ready to go to her new home.

High Speed Flight was born in 1998 on Fayter's farm. Fayter offered witnesses to identify the horse as hers, but Redwings would not accept the word of the mare's veterinarian, her farrier, or others who had seen the horse grow up. Only a DNA test would be good enough, they said. So Fayter pulled a couple of horse hairs and sent them off for comparison with the mare's original DNA profile and a parental DNA check. The tests came back positive: the horse at Redwings was AQHA-registered High Speed Flight, the daughter of Bar Sevenfortyseven and Kat As Trophy.

Still Redwings refused to return the horse. The DNA report could have been altered, they claimed, and besides, Fayter owed them for board and care since April. Fayter said she would pay board but would not agree to a second condition - inspection of her property by Redwings. The horse owner had a letter from a veterinarian attesting to the condition of her property and said she would accept inspection by a law enforcement agency or humane society with authority under California law, but she would not allow evaluation of her facility by the group with a financial interest in keeping her horse.

Several letters, a Redwings threat to sell the horse, a lawsuit, a court injunction, and thousands of dollars in expenses later, High Speed Flight went home in mid-June. Fayter paid board and care charges of $1147 for 2.5 months even though the going rate in her area is $150 per month. In July a photo of the palomino quarter horse appeared on Redwings website with a request for donations for her care.

NAIA is tracking a number of similar cases in which questionable practices have been used in seizing animals. Typically these impoundments have been conducted by tax-exempt societies or sanctuaries, which seem to be operating from their mission statements and by laws rather than applicable state and local laws. To complicate matters, there is a growing trend for government officials to appoint personnel from not-for-profit organizations as humane agents without regard to their ignorance about basic husbandry practices or their lack of training in the law and law enforcement. Accordingly, NAIA is disappointed, but not surprised to observe a growing number of serious due process violations in animal impoundment and seizure cases.

NAIA sympathizes with those who are charged with the difficult job of enforcing animal cruelty laws and supports all responsible enforcement efforts to end animal abuse. However, we believe that a conflict of interest exists when tax-exempt organizations stand as both accusers and enforcers in cases where part of their income derives from fundraising campaigns that target the suspect or from custodial fees earned during related impoundment or seizure cases. These conflicts are detrimental to the public interest as well as prejudicial to the accused and potentially harmful to the animals involved.

If you have been involved in such a situation and are willing to share court documents and other evidence with NAIA for publication, please e-mail naia@involved.com

Meanwhile, NAIA will continue to cover the case of High Speed Flight and to bring similar cases to public attention.

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