By Audrey Lodato, Executive Director Pets Alive Middletown
We’re always happy when someone from local law enforcement calls and asks us for help because it shows that they are serious about protecting animals. They don’t HAVE to call, but when they do it usually means that someone is going the extra mile to keep an animal safe. Pets Alive partnered with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in June to rescue 52 animals from a hoarding situation in Minisink, and we really enjoyed working with them. They have been very aggressive about seeking justice for the rescued animals and it’s obvious that they all care so much.
When they called us a few weeks ago seeking help with a starving horse, we jumped in immediately to help however we could. The situation began when the Orange County Sheriffs Office got a complaint from a concerned citizen regarding a horse that had not been fed and was being kept behind a warehouse. The Sheriffs reached out to see if Pets Alive could provide a horse expert to assess the physical condition of the horse. Our Farm Manager Cindy O’Brien met the Sheriffs at the warehouse and found a heartbreaking scene. The horse was being kept in a small, weedy area surrounded by chicken wire. His only shelter was a shed full of nails and broken glass. His only water was an algae filled tub that had been filled by rainwater running off the shed roof. The horse himself was young, unsocialized, and hungry. Skinny, sad and frightened, he ran to the far side of the enclosure when the rescuers arrived, looking at them suspiciously. This would not be easy.
We can’t post photos of the property, but we’ve included many pictures of Joey. All of them were taken here at Pets Alive.
When the law officers confronted the owner of the horse, who had mysteriously shown up at just the right time, he immediately agreed to surrender the horse to Pets Alive to avoid criminal charges. The case would have been difficult for the Sheriffs to prosecute. He technically had shelter, and he technically had water. He was neglected, but not dying. Joey could have spent months in limbo. The horse’s immediate rescue and careful monitoring of the owner in the future made the most sense to the Sheriffs in this situation. It was what was best for the horse.
The owner made excuse after excuse about the condition of the horse, who didn’t even have a name. We also learned some sad information. There had been two other horses in this man’s care – the horse’s mother and another young horse. These horses were conspicuously absent from the yard. We suspect, although we cannot confirm, that they were sold to slaughter, something that is both abhorrent and perfectly legal. What we think is that “our” horse could not be captured, and therefore could not be sold. In a sense, the fact that he had been so horribly neglected saved his life. It was one of the saddest things we have ever heard. Cindy began to call the horse “Joey.” It was a name that fit his sweet, shy personality.
With the paperwork taken care of, we had a new problem – how to get a young, frightened horse onto a trailer. Joey had never even seen a halter, much less wore one. He’d never been touched, much less loaded into a confined space that moved. To make it more complicated, the “fence” surrounding his enclosure was made of chicken wire. It was low, rusty and sharp. Cindy was concerned Joey would become frightened and try to jump over the fence, harming himself. Cindy developed a plan. It would take some time, but it would keep Joey safe. Cindy visited Joey daily for several weeks to feed him and gain his trust. Slowly, Joey came to understand that Cindy would not harm him, and then he began to look forward to her visits. With some help from our friends at Equine Rescue, we were able to gather some experienced volunteers and borrow some movable fence panels. By shrinking the enclosure and using food, we were able to eventually get Joey safely on the trailer. It was a short ride to Pets Alive. Joey was safe.
When Joey arrived he stepped, blinking, out of the trailer and into his new pasture. You could see his joy at his new surroundings. Joey checked out his new run in shed, stomped on the grass, and then happily began munching some hay.
Every day, Joey gets a little more trusting. The spark has returned to his eyes. He now greets us with a whiny, happy to see us. Cindy can touch him and soon she will begin the process of preparing him for adoption. One step at a time, Joey will be rehabilitated. When the time is right, we will find him a forever home. No more weedy lots, and no more broken glass for Joey. No more hunger and no more fear. Just the happily ever after he always deserved.
Rescuing Joey was possible because of both a partnership with the Orange County Sheriffs office, and our partnership with many of you, our donors. The people who donate to us allow us to save lives, and without them none of what we do is possible. If you’d like to become a donor and make a gift to help us save animals like Joey, please click the donate button below.