Mustangs Rescued from Nebraska Ranch on to Greener Pastures

Update May 14, 2009

Cheyenne, WY – Just three weeks after more than 220 neglected horses and burros were seized from a Morrill County ranch, all of the animals have found new homes through Habitat for Horses, a Texas-based equine protection organization.

On April 22nd, 211 horses and burros were seized from Three Strikes Ranch, a private mustang facility just outside Alliance, Nebraska. An additional 74 animals were confirmed dead. Necropsy results on a number of these animals revealed significant fat and muscle atrophy, which is consistent with starvation. Jason Meduna, the ranch’s owner, was arrested on one count of felony animal cruelty, but additional charges are expected.

Following the seizure, the animals were moved to the Bridgeport Rodeo Grounds in Nebraska and later, the remaining mares were relocated to Cheyenne, WY. At the same time, the geldings and studs were sent to Black Beauty Ranch, a sanctuary in Texas. On Thursday, the last of these mares was loaded on a trailer to her new home, bringing an end to the three week rescue operation, the largest of its kind in Nebraska history.

All 221 horses were placed with rescue organizations and adopters in more than 15 states. Katie Smith, a Wisconsin-based horse trainer, adopted two mares. Smith, a competitor in the Midwest Mustang Trainer’s Challenge, drove more than 14 hours to pickup her new charges, now named Snickers and Kimico. Asked about their adoption, Smith says "I went through all of the photos on the website, looking for horses with a ‘soft eye’. I couldn’t be happier with my choices! I was surprised to find that Snickers is halter broken. Kimico is still very scared, but is getting more curious every day. I’m amazed by her progress given what she has been through. Once they’re healthy and have had their foals, I’ll train them both for trail riding. Since hearing about this, I have been so angry and sad that these horses were allowed to deteriorate to this point – now I’m just beyond grateful for their rescue."

Jerry Finch of Habitat for Horses has been managing the rescue since April 18th. While relieved to return to his home in Texas, he is overjoyed with the outcome. "We started out three weeks ago with what seemed an insurmountable task – find placement for over 200 horses, nearly all unhandled mustangs. Today, every single one of these horses is in a safe, qualified facility and will never know the agony of starvation again. This extraordinary success would not have been possible without the efforts of partner organizations, volunteers and the local community." Asked about what led up to the events at Three Strikes Ranch, Finch states, "These horses were not starved because of the economy or lack of domestic slaughtering: Meduna never sought help, continued to recklessly breed, and remains adamant that he did nothing wrong. We’re constantly bombarded with stories about the ‘Unwanted Horse Crisis’, including unsubstantiated reports of thousands of abandoned animals. What we’ve seen here is this is not a crisis. With better controls on breeding and a little bit of time and effort, we can find safe placement for every unwanted horse. Unfortunately, too many people want the easy way out, which ultimately means their animals will endure tremendous suffering."

A dedicated website was established which now includes photographs and updates of the adopted horses. Donations can be made online at //www.habitatforhorses.org or mailed to: Habitat for Horses, P.O. Box 213, Hitchcock, TX 77563.

About Habitat for Horses:

Habitat for Horses (HfH) is the largest non-profit equine protection agency in North America, committed to the prevention, rescue and rehabilitation of neglected and abused horses. The organization has taken a leadership role in horse protection issues and has been instrumental in developing and promoting legislation to eliminate the slaughter of American horses. To learn more, visit www.habitatforhorses.org.

Original story

The Best Friends Rapid Response team was asked to volunteer at the Cheyenne, Wyoming stockyards. If you are on the ready list, you should have already been contacted. If you have not received an email, contact Ellen at elleng@bestfriends.org to check your readiness status. Here is the background information.

Alliance, NE – More than 70 neglected horses and burros found at a Morrill County ranch have found new homes through Habitat for Horses, a Texas-based equine protection organization. Placement efforts are continuing for the more than 50 mares (females), who will be moved to the Cheyenne Stockyards in Wyoming. The males, both geldings and stallions, will be moved to Black Beauty Ranch, a Texas-based sanctuary.

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On April 22, 211 horses and burros were seized from Three Strikes Ranch, a private mustang facility just outside Alliance, Nebraska. An additional 74 animals were confirmed dead. Necropsy results on a number of these animals revealed significant fat and muscle atrophy, which is consistent with starvation. Jason Meduna, the ranch’s owner, was arrested on one count of felony animal cruelty, but additional charges are expected.

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Since the seizure, the animals have been gaining weight and strength at their temporary home at the Bridgeport Rodeo Grounds. Horses are being placed with private adopters as well as rescue organizations throughout the United States. James Webber, a Box Butte County rancher, has been volunteering every day since the rescue began. Webber proudly talks of the four horses he adopted, "#3815 was the colt I led from the hills. I believe his mother was the last horse to die on the ranch. I found him standing over the body, and the mare had dug a halo all the way around where she died."

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More than 20 animals have been reunited with their owners, including Dr. Richard Porter of Nebraska-based KV Vet Supply. In an email statement, Porter said "I'm thankful for all those who responded so quickly to the rescue effort. I estimate my horse is at least 150 to 200 pounds underweight and will take several months to gain that weight back. It's going to be a long road for all these animals. With 74 dead animals it’s a tragic situation really. We're fortunate to have the opportunity to help save as many animals as we can." Porter’s organization donated and shipped much needed supplies to assist in the recovery efforts.

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Finch, who has been on site since April 18th, will travel with the mares to Cheyenne. While pleased with their efforts thus far, he remains focused on finishing the mission. Finch is particularly concerned about the mounting costs with the upcoming move, stating, "We could not have done this without the support and efforts of the local community, volunteers and partner organizations, but our work is far from done. We still must find suitable placement for nearly 50 mares, many pregnant. The need for financial support has never been greater."

How you can help

A dedicated website has been setup which includes photographs of the available animals, as well as forms and contact numbers. Donations can be made online at //www.habitatforhorses.org or mailed to: Habitat for Horses, P.O. Box 213, Hitchcock, TX 77563.

About Habitat for Horses:

Habitat for Horses (HfH) is the largest non-profit equine protection agency in North America, committed to the prevention, rescue and rehabilitation of neglected and abused horses. The organization has taken a leadership role in horse protection issues and has been instrumental in developing and promoting legislation to eliminate the slaughter of American horses. To learn more, visit www.habitatforhorses.org

Pictures by Best Friends staff and provided by Habitat for Horses