A horse rescue operation in Nokomis is fighting for its own survival.
The owner of Mellow Run Equestrian Center, Howard Paul Hanson, 68, was arrested this week for failing to provide adequate food and veterinary care for two of his horses, named Chase and Smoke. The geldings were signed over to the county and transferred to RVR Rescue Riverview near Tampa.
Hanson admitted he had limited funds to care for the horses and depends upon donations because he’s unemployed.
He put out a call for help seeking financial donations on the center’s Facebook page last month after the county stepped in and ordered him to have a veterinarian look at the animals.
“The horses are in good condition overall, however, all 10 horses need routine dental maintenance and some of the horses require minor tests and treatment plans to ensure their optimal health,” Hanson wrote in his online plea. “(We) need to overcome this sudden, unexpected financial challenge.”
A former employee called Animal Services in September saying Chase was very sick and near death.
RVR Rescue reported Chase has an untreated, advanced form of carcinoma.
“The prognosis is Chase will ultimately succumb to the cancer, but for the time being he’s doing very well,” said Kit Kelly, a volunteer at RVR Rescue.
“He’s behaving like a horse ought to behave right now.”
An investigator noted neither horse had had any work done on its feet or any dental work.
“It’s frightening they were riding him,” Kelly said. “Some people do it out of ignorance. Some just don’t care. He was under court order to provide veterinarian care but said he didn’t believe in it. He probably just didn’t believe in the cost associated with the care. I think that’s where the problem is.”
In late September, a deputy went to the center on Bristol Lane and observed a dozen horses, two of which drew his attention — a flea-bitten gray gelding and a bay gelding. Both were extremely emaciated, with protruding bones in the neck, shoulders, backbone and ribs.
The deputy reported no fat could be felt on either animal. He scored both at a 1 or less on the Henneke Body Composition scale, an industry standard. (Deputies consider below 3 to be a criminal case;
5 to 7 is normal.)
Hanson told authorities he put extra pads on the horses’ protruding backbones to try to prevent injury, and said he didn’t believe the horses needed veterinary care.
A week before his arrest, Hanson said, he had a veterinarian out to check on Smoke, but not Chase.
The vet said Smoke was prescribed treatment for badly needed dental work so it could eat better, and fat-fortified feed supplements.
Hanson had made arrangements for neither, say authorities. There was no hay on the ground when the deputy arrived. He noted the pastures were overgrazed, with little nutritious vegetation.
Hanson, of the 300 block Bristol Lane, Nokomis, was arrested and charged with two counts abandonment of an animal by failing to care for basic needs. He was released on $2,000 bond.
The fate of the remaining horses is still in question. Hanson will appear before a judge on Feb. 7.
In another case of animal neglect, a judge agreed to a plea deal Jan. 4 with dog breeder Donna Faircloth, 60, who faced numerous animal cruelty charges in one of the worst animal hoarding cases in Sarasota County history.
In May, Animal Services removed 263 dogs from chicken coop-like cages on her rural Venice property, many with open sores.
She was allowed to keep her bird-breeding operation in place under the watchful eye of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Under a court order she can have no more than her four personal dogs. She was hit with a $350 fine to cover court costs.