Friday, August 1, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

EDH rescue group helps in horrendous horse case

By
From page A1 | October 31, 2011 |

PREGNANT AND ABUSED —€” This mare named €œFriday was visibly pregnant when she arrived at the Grace Foundation in April from Whispering Pines Ranch in Susanville. Veterinarians at Grace have since found that an estimated 17 other mares from the 56 abused horses recovered from the derelict ranch are pregnant. Sadly, Friday experienced complications giving birth and her foal did not survive. Courtesy photo

PREGNANT AND ABUSED — The mare named “Friday” was visibly pregnant when she arrived at the Grace Foundation in April from Whispering Pines Ranch in Susanville. Veterinarians at Grace have since found that an estimated 17 other mares from the 56 abused horses recovered from the derelict ranch are pregnant. Sadly, Friday experienced complications giving birth and her foal did not survive.

EL DORADO HILLS — She hates to do it, but Grace Foundation Director Beth DeCaprio is asking for help. Her El Dorado Hills-based animal rescue and rehab organization has accepted 56 starving and abused horses from the derelict Whispering Pines Ranch of Susanville. At least 18 of the recovering horses are pregnant.

Important Subscriber Update

We will be switching to a new online subscription service on Tuesday, August 5th. If you are already a subscriber with login access to MtDemocrat.com you will need to re-register under the new service. This will not affect your bill. Please take the time today to click "Subscriber Verification" to verify your subscription with us and continue your access to MtDemocrat.com before the new service takes over.

We apologize for the temporary inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your patience and continued support while we make this transition.

- Mountain Democrat

1-Month Access
Subscriber Verification
Help?

“This case has truly haunted us,” DeCaprio wrote in an urgent e-mail plea two weeks ago. “It’s not only about the 56 horses that are now residing at Grace, but it also involves over 25 confirmed dead horses and there are many other burial pits that may have more.”

Whispering Pines owner Dwight Bennett, 57, has been in a long-running battle with Lassen County authorities and, by his telling, unnamed enemies who are to blame for the misfortune that has befallen his 54-acre ranch and the horses in his care.

Lassen County officials relented to pressure from the Grace Foundation two weeks ago. Sheriff’s deputies searched the ranch and uncovered the remains of 28 horses and three dogs. They also reportedly discovered a small amount of methamphetamine, drug paraphanalia and some marijuana. Bennett was arrested last week and charged with 30 counts of animal cruelty.

In a powerful and disturbingly graphic YouTube video, DeCaprio explains that Lassen County authorities first asked the Grace Foundation to help  in April. The video depicts a horse lover’s nightmare. County officials asked her to take just the four most critical cases that day. She picked up 16 more a few weeks later, one of which is shown in the video covered in dried feces.

Lassen County authorities and banks foreclosing on the property asked the Grace Foundation to return and take the remaining 37 horses in August.

Bank of America and Wells Fargo generously funded the initial cost of caring for the animals at the Grace Foundation. Lassen County helped with medical costs.

But the horses stand to create an overwhelming drain on the foundation. Volunteers quickly started trying to find homes for them.

That’s when things went awry. The state awarded the ownership of the horses to the bank as part of the foreclosure proceedings, but Bennett filed for bankruptcy at the last minute, returning legal ownership of the horses to him and leaving the Grace Foundation unable to put them up for adoption, and on the hook for the cost of their care while the case is litigated.

Now that Lassen County has filed charges against Bennett, he will no longer be allowed to include the animals in his frozen assets.

Foundation veterinarians confirmed that 18 of the 36 horses are definitely pregnant and 11 more may be in foal. Due to the lack of care and nutrition at Whispering Pines, these mares and foals will be prone to medical problems, said DeCaprio.

“Since the stallions were running free with the all of the mares, we also have young horses under 3 years of age that are pregnant,” said DeCaprio, who added that the problem of young pregnant animals is common with neglect and abuse cases. Normally, early pregnancies are terminated for the good of the mother, she explained.

The horses are now in protective custody as Bennett’s assets, leaving the Grace Foundation vets no options for gelding the stallions or terminating any early pregnancies in mares too young to safely foal.

DeCaprio is committed to nursing them all back to health, seeing the foals born safely and finding them good homes.

“We’re also trying to pressure the government agencies in question to hold Bennett accountable for these crimes,” said DeCaprio before the raid on the ranch last week.

In a June 13 response to several fervently negative reviews of Whispering Pines stables on Yahoo Local, the popular local business review Website, Bennett defended himself and the ranch, explaining that he’s been the victim of robberies, multiple “horse poisonings” and an attempted arson going back to 2009, when 18 horses were “lost.” Ten more horses have since been killed, he claims.

Bennett states that Lassen County Animal Control received complaints just before poisonings occurred. He accused local authorities of being unresponsive to his complaints and claims he encouraged his boarders to remove their horses after the problems began. He indicates that he filed a restraining order against unnamed parties, and that the matter is tied up in court.

“Under law, he had an obligation to report those poisonings as a crime,” said DeCaprio. “He didn’t do that. We see a lot of these abuse cases, and mysterious poisonings are often blamed, but rarely proven.

“The reality is that we have expert testimony that the horses on his property were severely malnourished,” she added. “We also saw that in the fresh carcasses.”

An Oct. 18 Lassen County Times article reported that court documents filed by Bennett in 2009 allege his horses were poisoned, newborn foals were smothered and fencing was cut, resulting in a stallion escaping and subsequently becoming crippled.

In the story, Bennett questioned the Grace Foundation’s assertion that 23 horse corpses were found during their first visit. He also alleged that photos of dead horses taken by the receiver in July are only five dead animals taken from different angles, and that alleged mounds of rotting feces are actually wood chips and compost piles.

“We’ve got expert witnesses and evidence that proves at least 25 dead horses on that property,” countered DeCaprio. “And we know that the fresh carcasses were malnourished.”

Undaunted by the situation, DeCaprio wrote in her e-mail, “We can and will save the lives of these horses, and by doing so we’ll send notice to other agencies and animal abusers that animals are not voiceless.”

To catch up on the latest developments in the case, or help the “Susanville 70,” go to the Grace Foundation Website, thegracefoundationofnorcal.org.

 

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    News

    Cameron Park house burns

    By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Supes delay petition

    By Chris Daley | From Page: A1

    Fire generated small city, inspired volunteers

    By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Sand Fire 95% contained

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1

     
    Two fires in town

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A3

    .

    Opinion

    Missing the point

    By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

     
    The weekly Daley: The wrong side of history

    By Chris Daley | From Page: A4

    Billingsley’s bullets: Advice from my psychiatrist

    By Bob Billingsley | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Letters

    Second Amendment

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5Comments are off for this post

     
    Pollock Pines’ Fourth of July Parade

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5Comments are off for this post

    Water conservation

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5Comments are off for this post

     
    Koby

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

    Debt reduction at EID with Coco?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

     
    Time for change in CP

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

    Olives need less water

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

     
    EID rate discrimination

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5Comments are off for this post

    .

    Sports

    Camp draws good numbers

    By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A9Comments are off for this post | Gallery

     
    New law tackles gridiron concussion problem

    By Mike Bush | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Outside with Charlie: Rafting denied

    By Charlie Ferris | From Page: A9

     
    Racing returns with big 5-division card

    By Bill Sullivan | From Page: A9

    Roundup: July 31, 2014

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A10

     
    .

    Prospecting

    Sing while you paint

    By Placerville Arts Association | From Page: B1Comments are off for this post | Gallery

     
    Plenty of golden fun during SlugFest

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Things to do: Aug. 1, 2014

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: B2

     
    The making of a champion

    By Special to the Democrat | From Page: B2

    Art on the Divide is showing new exhibitor

    By Art On The Divide | From Page: B3

     
    ‘The Flu Season’ stirs emotions

    By Ovation Stage | From Page: B4

    Guitar group performs in Sutter Creek

    By Sutter Creek | From Page: B5

     
    Time to register for classes at Center Stage

    By Center Stage Dance Academy | From Page: B5

    Get a groove on in Sutter Creek

    By Sutter Creek | From Page: B8

     
    Chris Young in concert at Carson Valley Inn

    By Carson Valley Inn | From Page: B8

    The music continues at Bear Valley Music Festival

    By News Release | From Page: B8

     
    Sacramento Museums are celebrating

    By Sacramento Association Of Museums | From Page: B9

     
    .

    Essentials

    Weather stats

    By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

     
    Crime Log: July 17-19

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

    .

    Obituaries

    Mark A. Smith

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

     
    Jeffie “Jeff” Lee Callahan

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

    Patsy Ruth Wing

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

     
    Lisa Oliver Rose

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

    Larry A. Randall

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

     
    .

    Real Estate

    Decorating your home by the numbers

    By Marni Jameson | From Page: HS4

     
    Avoiding the deal killers

    By Ken Calhoon | From Page: HS4

    Hilltop home views outrank water-front views

    Press Release | From Page: HS7

     
    Luxury home sales jump

    Press Release | From Page: HS11

     
    Pending home sales decrease in June

    Press Release | From Page: HS13

     
    Sheryl Lindroos joins American Heritage

    Press Release | From Page: HS17

    Sunny Rosabella exudes a warm ambiance

    Press Release | From Page: HS23

     
    .

    Comics

    .

    Home Source

    Decorating your home by the numbers

    By Marni Jameson | From Page: HS4

    Avoiding the deal killers

    By Ken Calhoon | From Page: HS4

    Hilltop home views outrank water-front views

    Press Release | From Page: HS7

    Luxury home sales jump

    Press Release | From Page: HS11

    Pending home sales decrease in June

    Press Release | From Page: HS13

    Sheryl Lindroos joins American Heritage

    Press Release | From Page: HS17

    Sunny Rosabella exudes a warm ambiance

    Press Release | From Page: HS23