Major seizure of Polish Arabians in Maryland - video

May 1, 2011

by Laurie Dixon

More than 130 Polish Arabian horses have been removed from the property of a major breeder in what is considered the biggest single horse impoundment in Maryland history.

One of the rescued horses. © Mike Buscher/HSUS

Days End Farm Horse Rescue's board member, Marci D'Alessio, talks with WBAL's Scott Wykoff about rescue.

The animals were seized from Canterbury Farms, whose website described it as America's largest breeder of Polish Arabian Horses.

One rescue group estimates the feeding and rehabilitation of the horses now in its care could top $US1 million in six months.

Rescue personnel said horses were found with assorted problems - under weight, suffering from parasite burdens, hoof infections, rain scald and overgrown hooves.

Queen Anne's County Animal Services have been monitoring the property for six months, but the horses had recently taken a turn for the worse, it has been reported.

Six of seven horses seized last week were euthanised.

Now, a major operation has seen the removal of more than 130 horses from the property.

Rescue groups involved in the operation are Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Woodbine, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Maryland and Delaware rescue organisations.

Humane Society chief executive Wayne Pacelle said Arabian horses were a gentle and beautiful breed, but sadly not immune from neglect.

Pacelle said the organisation's equine cruelty specialist, Stacy Segal, said the property was at one time a well-respected operation that imported horses from Poland and bred them for sale.

However, conditions had apparently deteriorated, and many of the animals on the property were now in poor shape.

The Queen Anne's County sheriff called in Days End Farm Horse Rescue, the humane society and the ASPCA to assist.

Pacelle said as well as health issues with the animals, their living conditions were also unsafe, with fallen-down fences and stalls filled with rocks and accumulated manure.

"We found a number of foals and young horses on the 200-acre farm, showing that breeding has been ongoing," Pacelle said.

On his blog, he wrote: "One horse, who should have had a long life ahead of her at the age of six, was dangerously underweight and plagued with parasites.

"While removing the horses from the property, rescuers discovered this suffering mare hidden under a tent. A veterinarian determined she was too far gone to be saved, and humanely euthanised her."

Pacelle said the society was grateful to the law enforcement officials and concerned citizens who set the rescue into motion.

"After legal proceedings determine the custody of these animals, we hope they can be adopted into good homes."

The rescue got under way after the Maryland State's Attorney authorised the removal of all horses deemed by a veterinarian to have a body score of three or below.

The owner has 10 days to challenge the county's action in court.

The horses are being transported to several private stables for temporary shelter. All will be checked by a team of veterinarians and given any necessary immediate medical care.

The rescued horses are in the formal custody of Queen Anne's County and will be cared for by rescue groups until their owner formally surrenders ownership or successfully petitions a court to have her horses returned.

The humane society's equine specialist, Stacy Segal, said: "Our rescue came not a moment too soon for some of the especially sick horses. There's no excuse for starving or neglecting an animal.

"It is the responsibility of every horse owner to provide humane, responsible care for their horses at all stages of their life."

Another of the rescued horses, nicknamed "Jellybean".

Days End Farm said the rescue was so big that it is being forced to use private facilities throughout Maryland to house, treat, and rehabilitate the animals.

Thirteen critical care cases were being transported to a Days End Farm Horse Rescue Satellite facility outside of Hagerstown, in Maryland, with the remaining animals going to several private facilities that will be managed and monitored by the rescue group, which has been running for 22 years.

It said the measures were necessary because its main facility is filled to capacity as a result of the major impounds dating back to last year.

"We are filled to capacity and our main farm cannot house any more animals, especially with the number involved in this case," said Dan Zalewski, the group's development director.

The cost of caring for the horses was a concern for the group. He said the humane society will be assisting with some of the initial costs, and initial veterinary services are being offered by volunteer veterinarians.

However, additional money will be needed to complete their rehabilitation, evaluation and eventual adoption.

"An individual horse in this condition will cost close to $US5000 for the initial six months, Zalewski said.

The group anticipated bills easily surpassing $US1 million over the next six months for the care of the animals.

"These monies are in addition to the operational costs already attached to our main facility, where we currently have over 70 horses being treated and watched for not only their original aliments, but for also a mild strain of equine strep throat."

Another Days End spokesperson, Brooke Vrany, said overbreeding led to the neglect of many of the impounded horses. "Our breeders need to be held responsible."

Tim Rickey, senior director of ASPCA field investigations and response, said: "These horses have suffered greatly and the ASPCA is glad to be able to lend its assistance and get these animals the treatment and care they so desperately need."