March 6, 2013
Misty Volaski, firstname.lastname@example.org
After six months of around-the-clock care at the Humane Society of Ventura County’s Ojai Shelter, four severely malnourished horses rescued from an Oak View ranch are steadily gaining weight. They’re doing so well, said HSVC shelter director Jolene Hoffman, veterinarians in charge of their care have recently cleared them for adoption.
“We were blown away how much weight they gained, how much it was,” said Hoffman. “They’re pretty big numbers … I don’t know how they could gain so much weight in such a short time.”
Nine-year-old Rusty has already added 175 pounds to his frame. Sarge, age 12 and a half, has gained the most — about 315 pounds. The two mini horses, 7-year-old Momma and her 14-month-old baby Niblet, have packed on 135 pounds and 104 pounds, respectively.
“I’m just amazed how much better they look week by week,” Hoffman said. “It’s why you keep doing this job.”
When the four were first brought in last September, the prognosis was grim. Hoffman rated them all at a one on the Henneke System of Body Conditioning, the worst on the scale of one to nine — meaning they were dangerously emaciated, possibly to the point of starving to death. All four also had infections in their overgrown hooves, which have now been cleared up thanks to visits from the farrier every six weeks.
Each of the four were put on specialized diets by the vet to help them gain weight quickly, but safely, through multiple small feedings throughout the day. “We couldn’t feed them too much or they’d get colicky,” Hoffman said, referring to a condition in which the animal experiences abdominal pain that could turn deadly if untreated. “Those first few weeks were so critical,” she added. “Many of us stayed after hours, walked them while they were colicky, stayed with them while the vet was here at night. The (shelter) caretakers were up monitoring them all night … I couldn’t even tell you how many hours the staff has devoted to these guys.”
Humane office John Brockus said he is relieved to see the progress the animals have made in such a short period of time. “They’ve gotten their personalities back! It’s really nice to know they’re going to live. Honestly, for quite a little while there, we didn’t know whether or not they were going to live.”
Brockus added that the criminal investigation is ongoing, and that he and his staff are still trying to locate the owners of the four rescued horses. Officers have been “stonewalled” so far, Brockus said, but have several leads they’re working. “We haven’t brought charges against anybody as of yet,” he said, “but this is a felony so it gives us more time” to conduct the investigation.
The owners of the ranch, located in the 900 block of Santa Ana Road, have been cleared of wrongdoing, Brockus added. “The owner (of the property) lives a distance from where the horses are kept, and he himself doesn’t have animals down there … he rents the space on his property, and the renter is responsible for everything — it’s not as if rent includes feeding and watering. It’s an all cash business, not like you’re filling out an application to rent there,” Brockus said, explaining why there is no paper trail leading to the horse’s owner. “And there’s a big turnover down there.”
Meanwhile, at the Shelter, Hoffman is overjoyed that the animals are ready to be adopted out. She cautioned that anyone interested in adopting the horses should be experienced in handling horses, and also patient. “They’ll need training, and someone who has the proper facilities and funds to care for them. If you just want to put a horse out to pasture, that’s not what these horses need.” To fill out an adoption application, to donate to the animals’ ongoing care and vet bills, or to provide leads on the horses’ owners, call the Ojai Shelter at 646-6505.