Last week, six owners of horses filed a lawsuit in Blount County, Tennessee, against the Blount County SPCA and several of its officers. The suit comes following a seizure in April 2013 of horses from a Tennessee Walking Horse trainer named Larry Wheelon. The charges against Wheelon were dropped in August, but a grand jury indicted him in December.
That trial is ongoing. But whether or not Wheelan is ultimately found guilty of animal cruelty, the owners of the horses claim that the horses were not cared for well by the animal activists—after the seizure—thus causing the owners injury in lost showing time.
The charges against Wheelon were dropped in August, but it took until November for animal activists to actually return the horses. And when they did return the animals, according to the complaint, “it was apparent that they had been granted substandard care and were in poorer condition than when they were seized.”
Other startling assertions include that a veterinarian recommended the BCSPCA in May 2013 to return the horses to their owners. But not only did the SPCA not do so, keeping the animals until November, but it allegedly hid the whereabouts of the animals from their owners. According to reports, the horses were held by animal activists at a secret location—and then moved to a second secret location when the owners discovered the first one.
So where does the Humane Society of the United States fit in? HSUS was involved in the seizure. And HSUS was the group that shunted the horses off to a secret location after the seizure, and paid for the animals’ transport and veterinary care.
Or, if the plaintiffs are to be believed, alleged veterinary care.
If HSUS didn’t provide the horses proper care, it may not be the first time. In Arkansas in 2009, HSUS seized horses from a woman’s business and accused her of neglect, and she was charged with animal cruelty. Those charges were later dropped, and the woman ended up getting a court order to be able to care for her horses. Why? Because the horses were found starving in a field.
HSUS puts together no shortage of self-congratulatory videos and press releases. HSUS CEO Wayne “I don’t love animals” Pacelle claims that HSUS provides more care for animals than any other group (which is doubtful). If HSUS is going to hold itself out as such, then it had better make sure that animals in its custody are fully cared for.
In this case, we’ll see what comes out at trial.