A $US6000 reward has been offered over the fatal shooting of one of Arizona’s iconic Salt River wild horses.
The 12-year-old horse named Dotty was found dead in Tonto National Forest on the morning of October 1. She was lying in the river, near the Coon Bluff parking area. She appeared to have been shot in the head and possibly her shoulder.
She was last seen unharmed on September 30.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office announced the reward on Thursday.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio appealed for the public’s help in solving the case.
He said the reward came from two separate donations – $US1000 from the Schill Law Group and another $US5000 from the International Society of the Protection of Mustangs, which was organized by Arizona State Representative Kelly Townsend.
The reward is being offered for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooter or shooters involved.
“This issue is important to a number of people in our community,” Arpaio said. “This reward money could go a long way in solving the case. We will follow every lead, make every effort to find the suspect and bring justice to Dotty’s death.”
Townsend, who has been actively involved in the case, is looking to raise more money to increase the reward.
“There is no other animal that optimizes the idea of pure freedom more than the wild horse. They are sovereign unto themselves, and have enjoyed that freedom long before Arizona became a state. Shooting one of our beloved icons, whether it was with malicious intent or a perceived mercy killing, was an illegal act and that person must be brought to justice.
“I firmly believe that someone knows who the shooter is, and it is my hope that this reward money will be incentive enough for them to come forward.”
Arpaio confirmed that sheriff’s deputies did not find anything suspicious initially, until a necropsy was completed by a veterinarian.
It showed that Dotty was killed by a gunshot, and before that had been healthy, showing no signs that someone would have felt the need to put her down.
The Salt River horses made headlines in August over plans by US Forest Service officials to muster the herd and sell them at auction.
The horses, who have lived in the area for nearly a century and can regularly be seen wading into the river to graze on the aquatic grasses, are not protected under the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which applies only to mustangs living in formally recognized management areas.
A huge campaign in the US driven through social media to save the 100 or so horses swayed the agency to reconsider its position. The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, which drove the campaign, is currently lobbying for the permanent protection of the herd, which draws tourists to the area.
The group’s president, Simone Netherlands, said of Dotty’s death: “It is very disturbing that there may be someone out there with cruel intent, and we are committed to finding out what happened to Dotty.”