More than 200 horses were seized in an afternoon, and more than a dozen taken to the SPCA facility in Houston for immediate treatment for malnourishment, open and infected wounds, and hooves untrimmed for perhaps as much as a year, causing the horses to limp.
This is a tough story to write. A great deal of Texas history was made on horseback. From the first Spanish explorers and Americans coming to settle the new western frontier in the 1820’s and ‘30’s, the Texas Rangers pursuing outlaws and renegade Indians, through cavalry forts and cattle drives, it couldn’t have been done without a horse.
There had been reports for months about the Premium Star Horse Ranch near Conroe, Texas, having a herd of horses that did not have enough food and water. Neighbors noticed and called the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office called the SPCA and they sent investigators. Last week, action was finally taken.
How bad was it? HSPCA President Patti Mercer said as the first group of horses set off for Houston. “It’s heartbreaking, because this didn’t happen overnight. It takes a long time (for the horses) to get like this. This is suffering that takes place over time.
“We’re hoping today’s the day life changes for them.”
The herd was owned by Herman and Kathleen Hoffman, who were arrested on three charges of misdemeanor animal cruelty. They were jailed under $30,000 bond, and bonded out the following day. Hoffman immediately blamed disgruntled and inept staff for the malnourishment and maltreatment. Some former workers at the ranch tipped off Montgomery County as early as last October about problems at the facility.
The HSPCA anticipates spending roughly $500,000 in total to take care of the horses, a cost which includes everything from blood tests to feed for the horses. Mercer said more than $3,000 can be spent on a single horse.
With the court ordered seizure of the livestock, Montgomery County is providing feed for the herd through the end of this week, which includes dozens of cows and goats as well. The estimated cost will be roughly $15,000.
Breitbart Texas spoke with Brian Latham, Media Relations director for the HSPCA. “This is the biggest case of horse abuse we’ve ever seen. It was a tough scene walking through the pastures and stables. Some horses couldn’t move in their stables that looked as though they hadn’t been cleaned out in months.” He added, “As we walked through the pastures and barns, the further from the road we got, the conditions deteriorated, and the horses were in much worse shape.”
The wounds and injuries to the herd include open and scabbed over wounds, many covered with flies, untended hooves, and Latham speculated that some had possibly never seen a farrier, and that meant they were limping on the lowest joint in their leg. Several were emaciated so that their ribs and hips were visible, and underweight by hundreds of pounds.
The immediate needs of the horses are many and varied “To bring them back to health, we need to monitor all their diets” Latham continued, “So we don’t need donations of feed or hay. We’re working on a ‘wish list’ that will be posted on our website HoustonSPCA.org, and it will include halters, ropes, and donations from farriers and people who have room in their pasture for horses needed rehabilitation.” We are accepting offers for volunteers to work with the horses, but it could be at least a couple of weeks before they’re called.
Given the size of the herd and the conditions of the animals, officials said the majority of the horses will remain on the farm. Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office deputies will remain on the property around the clock to ensure the animals are protected while they receive care. The terms of the Hoffmans’ release prevents them from having any contact with any livestock on their ranch and doesn’t allow for them to interfere with the care the animals are receiving.
The Hoffmans are set to appear in court this week to face civil charges but it was uncertain when the two will make their first court appearance related to the criminal charges.
Milford is a news contributor to Breitbart Texas. You can follow him on Facebook.