On January 6th, 2014 complaints were filed against a Belleville resident who is accused of animal neglect and cruelty. In the beginning of January, neighbors reported that this resident left his dogs and two small ponies outside in -40 degree windchills with no protection from the bitter cold other than a few barrels. At this point, the so-called pony “shelters” looked something like this:
Since both the Wisconsin statute (see chapter 951) and the Green County Statute (see Chapter C 7-4-13-2) prohibit cruelty to animals, which includes subjecting them to inclement weather without proper shelter, complaints from all over the United States were filed with the Green County Sheriff’s department, who spoke with the Belleville resident, after which he put up a few cheap, flimsy boards which he claims protect the ponies from the wind. Now the so-called “shelter” looks like this (this is a photo my friend took when we personally visited the resident’s home today- January 28th, 2014):
Global Conservation Group, a Wisconsin based animal activist group has started a petition, with over 4,000 signatures, which aims to encourage the Green County Sheriff’s department to uphold its own anti-cruelty statutes. Yet, the Green County Sheriff’s department continues to ignore this blatant act of cruelty. The sheriff’s department rests peacefully at night, reassuring themselves that these ponies “have adequate shelter and a nice thick coat of fur” to keep them from freezing temperatures, like tonight’s:
While it is noted that horses and ponies have somewhat of a thick winter coat and they thus can survive quite well in the winter, this coat, however thick it might be, does not protect ponies from the extreme temperatures in Belleville which have dropped, and continue to drop, well below zero.
In their peer reviewed article, Marcia Hathaway, PhD and Krishona Martinson, PhD note that the ideal temperature for equines is between 18 and 59 degrees. While horses can “tolerate” lower temperatures in the absence of wind, it is safe to say that horses, even with their thick coat, are not able to tolerate -40 degree windchills. Hathaway and Martinson suggest that when the temperatures fall below zero, equines should have “free access to a stable or an open-sided shed.” Horse experts also suggest that: “a manmade shelter should be provided and erected by a professional to ensure that it is safe and able to withstand strong winds.” Does the above “shelter” look like a “stable” or “open-sided shed” to you? Do these flimsy boards look able to withstand strong winds?
Since the Green County Sheriff’s department has been less than forthcoming with the public, Global Conservation Group has filed complaints to state and federal officials, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, WI Department of Agriculture, and WI Justice Department about the Green County Sheriff’s department. I myself will be filing additional complaints with the Green County’s district attorney and attorney generals office and requesting that they look into the following:
1. Is the back wall of the “shelter” at least 9-feet high? Is there a 4- to 6-foot overhang will help prevent rain and snow from blowing into the shed? Is the “shelter” stable enough to withstand strong winds? These are requirements for minimal standards of care for equines in extreme weather, as noted by Kathleen P. Anderson, Extension Horse Specialist.
2. Is there fresh water (at the temperature of 35 to 50°) available for these ponies (note that snow and ice is NOT a suitable water source for equines)? Is the ice broken up throughout the day? Is the water heated? In freezing temperature, water freezes… imagine that! Horse experts state that “extra care should be taken during hot or icy weather to ensure the water supply is
maintained and sufficient, for example, by regularly breaking the ice during cold spells.” Since night time is the coldest time of the day, if the ice is not broken up throughout the night or if the water is not heated, the ponies will go for hours without water. *Note that in a peer-reviewed article, Michaela A. Kristulaa and Sue M. McDonnell also conclude that “continuously heated water or hot water twice daily with feeding” is the best way to ensure that equines have water to drink in these extreme temperatures.
3. How much feed is available for the Belleville ponies? Research concludes that whether or not an equine adapts to freezing temperature depends on the animal’s energy intake. Dr. Nadia Cymbaluk writes that “good feed is the main solution for keeping horses in good condition through winter. Well-fed horses adapt without problem to cold weather, whereas unfed horses lose weight and lose cold tolerance.” Are the ponies provided with enough free choice to good quality forage (hay), which PhD, Karen Waite, suggests is necessary for equines to produce heat? Research shows that equines need LOTS of hay to keep producing energy to stay warm.
4. Note that although research indicates that, with proper shelter, feed, and water, young, healthy horses can survive in freezing temperature, the Belleville ponies are miniature and they have less muscle mass and fat for insulation, thus much of the research done on horses is inapplicable to the small Belleville ponies who will demand more care in these extreme temperatures, such as blankets or rugs, none of which appear to be provided for the Belleville ponies. Christine Barakat points out, “A cold horse not only becomes thin, but he will also become stressed and weak as his body struggles to maintain its temperature. That can lead to a compromised immune system less able to fight off illness or infection.”
5. Equines younger than one year, older equines, equines with poor teeth, and equines with a body score lower than a 3 demand extra care, such as blanketing, in extreme temperatures. How old are the Belleville ponies and what is their body score? What is the condition of their teeth? Oh, that’s right, we don’t know, because the police took one quick look at the situation and apparently have all of the information they need to make a decision about a pony’s ability to endure below freezing temperatures.
Note that when I personally spoke with the Sheriff’s office, the Officer could not provide me with information about the water and food situation of these animals, although I was assured that the “humane officer” visited the location and he/she gave the “thumbs up.” When asked for the humane officer’s contact information, I was told that I could provide my contact information, and the humane officer would contact me. I am still waiting to hear from this officer who can enlighten me. Note that an equine expert has not, to this date, been sent in to assess the situation.
The Green County Sheriff’s department has failed its residents, and most of all, the Green County Sheriff’s department has failed the helpless ponies and dogs who are held captive in Belleville and subjected to the brutal winter weather of Wisconsin without adequate protection. Let us hope that the additional complaints filed by both myself and Global Conservation Group will succeed in holding the sheriff’s department responsible for doing what they are paid to do: their job.
Please continue to call the Green County Sheriff’s department and voice your outrage with their failure to act:
Main line: 608-328-9400
Sheriff Mark Rohloff: 608-328-9615
Or E-mail them on their webpage
Watch the news report on this case of animal cruelty here.
Please join the Global Conservation Group for a protest against the Green County Sheriff’s Department on Friday, February 14th.