DOAG: CRUELTY TO CARING



May 23, 2018

CRUELTY TO CARING

Barbara Godejohn, State Animal Control Officer, Bureau of Regulatory Services

For the past 15 years, the Department of Agriculture (DoAg), with cooperation from the Department of Correction, has provided a sanctuary for the worst cases of abused, starved, and neglected horses and livestock in Connecticut.

The aptly named "Second Chance" Large Animal Rehabilitation Facility consists of 46 stalls in two barns, and fenced paddocks on the grounds of the York Correctional Institution in Niantic, CT.

Although the facility was initially constructed with the intent to rehabilitate horses, it has been frequently used to rehabilitate other livestock species and poultry.

Since the barn opened in 2003 more than 200 horses have gone through rehabilitation and found new homes.  These include many different breeds of horses such as Gypsy Vanners, Quarter Horses, Arabians, Friesians, Paints, Thoroughbreds, and many others.

Currently there are three horses housed at the facility that are ready for adoption. All three of the horses are from Connecticut cruelty to animals cases. 

One of the horses currently at the facility is a chestnut Quarter Horse gelding named Blaze—aptly named due to the large white blaze on his face.  Blaze first came to the facility in 2014 with a pasture mate that unfortunately was very ill and did not recover.  A year later Blaze was adopted to a new home, but eventually came back to the facility when DoAg learned that his new owner suffered hardship and could no longer afford to keep him.

Blaze is a real character and always brings a smile to your face with his constant antics.  Because he is so well behaved, he is allowed to roam loose throughout the fenced-in grounds at the facility. 

One day one of the agriculture workers noticed a lead rope missing on the stall door where they are kept.  She walked out to find Blaze swinging the rope around like a cowboy about to rope a steer!  This is just one of the many antics that Blaze has in his repertoire.  Blaze is 22 years old and is able to handle light riding on trails or in the ring.  He would be a great horse for someone who does occasional trail riding.  He is fine for a beginning rider.  Blaze gets along well with other horses. 

Another one of the horses available for adoption is a mustang mare named Cheyenne.   Cheyenne and her pasture mate were starved by their former owner.  When DoAg’s State Animal Control Officers were alerted, the two horses were seized through the usual means of a search and seizure warrant. The owner was subsequently charged with cruelty to animals.  A civil proceeding ensued which ultimately granted ownership of the two horses to DoAg.

The two horses were rehabilitated and one of the horses has been adopted.  Cheyenne however, remains at the facility and receives daily care from the inmates.  The two mustangs originally came to Connecticut from the western U.S. through the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  The BLM periodically holds adoption events to place wild mustangs and burros.  Cheyenne needs an experienced owner who is gentle and patient.  She will make a good pasture companion, as she does get along with other horses.

The third horse is an Arabian mare named Isis.  She was named after an Egyptian deity that used powerful magic to help people in need.  Isis is the diva of the barn.  She loves people and follows the workers around showing off whenever she gets the chance.  She is always seeking attention of her human caretakers.  Her nickname is Icy or Ice.  She was seized along with a number of other Arabian horses that were mistreated and malnourished.  All of the other horses from the case have been placed.  Isis is green broke to ride but requires an experienced rider.  

Prior to 2003, DoAg did not have a facility or the workable means to house and rehabilitate large animals that it seized in cases of cruelty to animals.  

Fortunately, construction of the original 22-stall barn facility had just been completed when, in July of 2003, its purpose and need became a reality.  An unexpected “grand opening” occurred as a result of DoAg seizing 27 horses, a mule and a cow from an owner that was the subject of an animal cruelty investigation. 

As in other animal seizures, the investigation into this case generated sufficient evidence of malnutrition and neglect for DoAg to successfully apply to the court for a search and seizure warrant that provided the legal basis to remove and take custody of the animals.  The rescued animals were cared for and rehabilitated back to health at the newly opened facility and then placed with new owners.                   

Since 2003, the facility has expanded with the addition of a second barn with 24 stalls.  A welcome improvement provided in the newest barn is a veterinary treatment area in which some equipment, including stocks for the safety of both animals and workers, was generously donated by Dr. Thor Hyyppa who also donated rubber stall mats. 

The increased housing capacity from the addition of the second barn has proven necessary on a number of occasions.   Notably, in 2015, DoAg seized approximately 75 dairy goats from a farm.  Because some of the does were pregnant, the goat herd expanded in short order to approximately 100 animals.  Most recently, in 2016, DoAg seized 32 horses in a cruelty case which were brought to the Niantic facility for rehabilitation. 

Inmates assist DoAg staff in caring for the horses by grooming, feeding, watering, turning them out in their paddocks, and cleaning their stalls.  Inmates involved in the program report they benefit from the experience of having to take care of animals that can’t take care of themselves.

Inmate self-worth often improves from the experience, and the animals get the care and support they need.  The inmates work alongside an agricultural worker employed by DoAg who provides training and direction for the inmates to ensure their safety, as well as the safety of the horses.

When new horses arrive, they are examined and treated by a veterinarian.  Recommendations are made as to feeding, turnout, and other needs on a case-by-case basis.  The horses are handled by the agricultural worker for the first few days to make sure they are safe for the inmates to handle. The animals are fed twice daily unless otherwise needed.  As their condition improves, rations are adjusted as instructed by the attending veterinarian. 

There has never been a horse that was medically healthy that did not put on weight while it was housed at the facility.  The workers and inmates do an amazing job. 

Additional information and adoption applications are available through the DoAg website or by calling  860-713-2506.