On Friday, a woman who was walking her dog had the dog run off toward a barn on the property where they rent a house. The dog would not return on command, so the younger of the two women clambered over some stacked pallets blocking the barn and entered looking for her dog. From subsequent video coverage and photos, what she entered was a large indoor arena set up with small round pens inside. There she found 14 dead horses covered with Lye and tarps, decomposing, while the emaciated, starving horses that remained lived amongst the carcasses. She reported that in some of the runs the manure was four feet deep. The woman who found them, immediately called the authorities.
The El Paso County Sheriff came to the scene, evaluated the remains of the dead horses, viewed the survivors, and then talked to the owners. I have no idea what was said, but the sheriff left and did nothing about the surviving horses. As more of the story has come to light, it was reported that the Sheriff is under investigation by the FBI and the CBI for Federal and State criminal charges. He released a statement on Saturday, stating that the horses were not in immediate danger (none of them had to be euthanized) and that they would remain under the care of Sherri Brunzell. The sheriff also stated that they would work with the Brunzells to get the property cleaned up and taken care of properly.
The woman who originally found the carcasses while searching for her dog, had been following the events very closely. She was distraught by the lack of response on the part of the authorities. There was no food or water for any of the horses she saw, and no food on the premises. The horses were very thin, with ribs and hips showing, sunken backs and hollow necks. She started a facebook post asking for signatures to force the Sheriff's department to remove the horses from their owners. The post went viral after a viewer recognized one of the horses from the newscast, based on what the viewer knew of the horse and the horse's brand. The horse was Cutting Horse Champion Dual Peppy.
Via Facebook, the story went international. Hundreds of people and organizations stepped up offering help, transport, food, and a place for the horses to go. In 48 hours, the Facebook page that sprang up on Sunday, Justice for Dual Peppy, had a million views. I think the overwhelming response of the AQHA and all of the other horse people who called the sheriff's department advocating some other response than to leave the horses there, which was driven by the rapid sharing of the story on FB, led to an increased response from the authorities.
Dual Peppy on Friday
The owners are claiming the 14 skeletal remains of the horses were due to colic during last winter's deep freeze. Then they claim it was blister beetle in the hay. They didn't remove the remains because the horses were big. They didn't have a vet out to treat the colic. They were having problems keeping weight on Dual Peppy.
Colorado Humane Society out of Denver and the Pike Peak Humane Society removed the remaining living animals from the property, including 10 horses and 4 llamas (or alpacas, depending - they are hard to tell apart). The animals are being kept in an undisclosed location. The sheriff's office quoted "needing time to investigate before making any decisions".
It was reported that Sherri Brunzell and her husband are being sued by the financial backers that financed the purchase of Dual Peppy ($600,000).
It is rumored that this incident may finally result in the removal of the El Paso County Sheriff from his office.
On Dual Peppy and his background: http://thehorseaholic.com/cutting-world-champion-and-leading-sire-dual-peppy-is-among-abused-and-neglected-horses-in-colorado/
From a Cutting Horse Blog: http://allaboutcutting.net/
As wonderful as it has been to see the response from the AQHA community, other horse owners and concerned citizens, it is sad for me to realize that if the starving Stallion in the video, Dual Peppy, hadn't been so significant, this story may not have gotten the coverage it has, if the horse had not been famous.
This just highlights the fact that there are lots of horses out there that no one knows about who are slowly starving to death. I own one, in fact, that was almost starved to death. These aren't just backwoods bred horses, either. Ashke is very well bred and although not a winner, certainly not disposable.