Oakland co. to enforce Michigan State law and bring justice to Summer & other neglected horses
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PLACEMENT OF 2 RESCUE HORSES WITH WENDY HOUDESHELL: We are a private rescue in Clarkston, MI - H.O.P.E Horsepark - stands for "Hold On, Pain Ends". The owner of H.O.P.E., Rona C., placed two rescue horses, “Summer” and “Babe” in the care of Wendy Houdeshell. Summer, a 25 year old golden mare, was in great health when she left H.O.P.E. in August 2017 (see “Before” pictures), and was ridden by clients at the barn. As with all of her rescues, Rona first required in-barn leasing so that the owner demonstrated his/her ability to care for the horses. Wendy did 4 months; however, Rona admits she was a little more lenient with Wendy since her husband had cancer at the time. The original contract is void because the placement of another rehab horse, Auricle, who was in the contract was switched out after Wendy said she didn't want her anymore and was too difficult to handle. Nonetheless, after the in-barn trial period, an out-of-barn trial period occurs such that, in the event that adequate care was not being met or that the owner could no longer care for them, the horses were to be returned to Rona immediately with no questions asked.
CARE OF HORSES ON KATHLEEN GROZENSKI’S PROPERTY: The horses were first being kept at Wendy Houdeshell’s house at 4919 Casey Rd, Dryden MI 48428, and were evidently in good health and well cared for at this time. Wendy then moved the horses to Kathleen Grozenski’s barn, “Sisbro Stables”, at 10390 Reese Rd, Clarkson, MI 48348. Kathy’s barn is a ‘self-care’ barn, yet there was a caretaker on site, David Reynolds. Rona periodically checked on the horses, and when she drove by the property in December 2017 and January 2018, she saw the horses outside in negative degree weather and no blanket, no access to food or water (water was frozen). Rona had explicitly told Wendy and Kathy several times, in person and in writing, that the horses were older and were rehab, and could not be kept outside in the winter, with no blanket nonetheless. Rona brought this up to both Wendy and Kathy who were friends of Rona’s, and they stated that Wendy was mourning her husband’s cancer death and how dare she. Kathy’s son even came by the Horsepark in January 2018 to talk with Rona about the state of the horses, and expressed his concerns. This is documented in text messages as well. Wendy texted Rona repeatedly asking for Babe’s title, as she planned to take him out of state to Pennsylvania.
SUMMER’S DEATH & VIDEO/PHOTO EVIDENCE: Finally, last week Wendy texted Rona that she could finally come get Summer and didn't care if she was left to die. So on Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018, Rona went to Kathy’s house in the morning and spent all day trying to warm Summer. She was shivering, soaking wet, and was clearly severely dehydrated. When she was there, Rona saw one of the other horses, Babe, colicing. At this time, Rona took photos and videos of the conditions of Summer and the other horses there. Photos and videos can be found here:
Babe and some of the other horses were severely emaciated, and clearly dehydrated - no access to water. Stalls were filthy, and horses were standing in several week’s worth of excrements. The other horses at the barn appeared to be less emaciated but upon closer inspection walked with a limp and had clear untreated fractures. The hooves were overgrown, as it looked like the farrier has not been out in years. Kathy and Wendy both refused to call the vet, and stayed in the house while Rona and the caretaker David tried to revive Summer. Their only communication to Rona was to ask for Babe’s title, and to tell her to not take any of the blankets. Rona was trying to warm Summer with dirty laundry from her own car, and went to buy diesel to fuel the space heater to point at her - as it was freezing inside the barn. She gave Summer water, grain, electrolytes, and banamine. Rona finally convinced Wendy to release Summer to her, and David, Rona, and Meagan L. struggled to get Summer loaded into the trailer. She was too weak to lift up her rear legs. When she got to the Horsepark she was very weak, walked around the arena a couple of times, and then laid down to die as soon as she found a warm place in the sand. David, Rona, Meagan L. and Hilary M. witnessed her death at around 6PM.
That evening, Rona and Hilary both requested that Wendy at least pay for the renderer to take care of the body. Wendy refused. We arranged for a renderer of $480 to pick up the body and transport to MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. Wendy sent the Oakland Co. Sheriff’s department to the Horsepark that night to ask Rona to turn over the title for the other horse, Babe. Rona refused as it is a breach of contract and the animals are clearly being neglected. This is a civil dispute. The larger issue is the animal neglect – the death of Summer and the other horses who are severely emaciated and dehydrated, with inadequate veterinary medical care. Update (1/29/18): Wendy dropped off $400 (of the $480 rendering fee) to the Horsepark, and a letter stating that she should be removed from the petition, as all of the blame should go to Kathy and David (the stable owner and the caretaker, respectively), as the horses were left in their full care. The owner is ultimately responsible, though, and they keep shifting the blame to others.
REPORTS TO OAKLAND COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPT. & ANIMAL CONTROL: On Friday March 19 at 10:00 AM, Hilary reported the incident to Oakland County animal control. She sent an email with information on the incident, including photographs and videos. She also tried to call the Sheriff’s department to file a police report, but they refused to take it if it had already been reported to animal control. Ron Shankin, supervisor of Oakland Co. Animal Control, called Hilary on Friday afternoon to ask for more details. Ron then spoke with Rona on the phone for more information. They asked about Rona's relationship to Hilary, which has nothing to do with animal welfare. We are aware that animal control was previously contacted about this same property, ironically, by Wendy Houdeshell the owner of some of the neglected horses. Hilary did not hear back from Animal Control on Friday, and when she did call back for an update, it was after hours (after 5PM). The Sherif’s department told her there was nothing that could be done if it was already reported to animal control, and after hours. They could send an officer out but couldn’t take any action without animal control. On Saturday we received word from David the “caretaker” that the 2 horses who appeared to be in the worst shape, Babe and another horse named Navajo, in Wendy’s care, had left the property. Update on Tuesday Jan 23, 2018: Ron Shankin, Supervisor of Oakland County Animal Control, got back to us to state that they are working with the owners to do a veterinary inspection. It is unclear if they are doing this on Wendy’s horses that have been moved, if they will inspect the hooves and apparent fractures and lameness in the horses in Kathy’s barn, ask for veterinary and farrier records over the past few years, or inspect the videos for the conditions of the stable and horses and in particular of the now deceased mare. Update on Tuesday Feb 13, 2018: Ron Shankin, Supervisor of Oakland County Animal Control, got back to us stating that the investigation has been closed due to insufficient evidence and any more information would need to be requested formally through the Freedom of Information Act requests online at Oakland County. Hilary filed for a request on the investigation, and they did not check the two emaciated horses (Babe and Navajo) that Wendy removed from the property. Wendy was also the owner of the horse, Summer, that died. A veterinarian, Dr. Ryker, did check on Kathy's horses and apparently went back to treat the one with the old fracture lameness and no mention of their horrid hooves whom 4 horses she owns haven't been trimmed in years as they are "retired and don't need it". No investigation of Babe and Navajo emaciated or their current information. All that was mentioned in their records was that Kathy was a nice lady that lived in an immaculate property and huge mansion. Not sure what that has to do with neglect. Ron Shankin also emailed Hilary that: "I would welcome your written statement that provides details of what you personally witnessed. Not what someone else told you. Photos of empty water or food buckets are not helpful." This is extremely sloppy and careless, and I am not sure how subjective reports or eyewitness testimony (which is extremely unreliable, as proven time and time again in scientific literature) are more reliable than photo and video documentation. There was no mention of the condition of the horses and stalls in the photo and video, and the now-deceased animal.
REPORT TO PETA: Hilary then called PETA to make a complaint. PETA called the Oakland Co. Sheriff’s department who then sent an officer to check on the property. It was not clear that the officers went inside the barn to see the horses, or inspect them. David did speak with PETA directly but stated that the horses were all in excellent care and that he didn’t know where Babe and Navajo were being kept.
THIS PETITION IS CALLING ON OAKLAND COUNTY TO ENFORCE MICHIGAN STATE LAW AND BRING JUSTICE TO SUMMER, AND REMOVE THE OTHER HORSES WHO ARE CLEARLY IN A NEGLECTFUL SITUATION.
MICHIGAN STATE LAW: MCL 750.50: The duty to provide care provision imposes upon “an owner, possessor, or person having the charge or custody of an animal” the duty to provide an animal with adequate care. § 750.50(2)(a) . Adequate care is defined as “the provision of sufficient food, water, shelter, sanitary conditions, exercise, and veterinary medical attention in order to maintain an animal in a state of good health.” § 750.50(1)(a) . The animals had no access to food or water, shelter, living in extremely unsanitary conditions, and both Wendy and Kathy refused to call a vet. A violation of the duty to provide care provision is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for no more than 93 days, a fine of no more than $1,000.00, and/or community service of no more than 200 hours, as well as the prosecutor’s costs. § 750.50(4) . Who is punishable? According to the law, the duty of care falls on the person or persons who had “the charge or custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise.” This suggests that Wendy, Kathy, and David are culpable. In 2007, the Michigan Legislature made an amendment to its duty to provide care statute (MCL 750.50) which became effective in April 2008. In this amendment the law changed such that the sentence enhancement from misdemeanor to felony is based upon the number of animals involved or the number of prior convictions. In other words, under the new law, an offender faces a felony charge if he or she has a prior conviction or four to nine animals were involved.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE LAW: Although Wendy expressed her intention to move the horses out of state, to PA, we do not know if this has happened yet. According to the PA Department of Agriculture (August 29, 2016 revision), the following are required for horses to be imported into PA: (1) Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, issued within 30 days prior to entry into PA, (2) Negative test for Equine Infectious Anemia within 12 months prior to PA, (3) Statement by a veterinarian that the animals are free from Vesicular Stomatitis.
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