Veterinarian: Horse shot, left to die near Rulison, should survive
November 14, 2009
RIFLE, Colo. – Authorities are searching for clues in an apparent botched shooting of a horse near Rulison.
But there’s hope that the horse will survive.
The horse is described as a gray gelding, approximately 14.2 to 14.3 hands high, and according to Liz Chandler, of Emergency Veterinary Care, she expects that the horse is in its late teens.
“It’s got a long road ahead of him, but it does appear that the horse is going to make it,” Chandler said Friday.
The horse is being cared for at an undisclosed ranch near Rifle where Chandler can check up on it daily. She is giving the horse medications for infection and pain, she said.
According to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, deputies discovered the horse about 5 p.m. on Nov. 9. Chandler said that a passing motorist heading to Grand Junction noticed the injured animal along the north side of Interstate 70, and called authorities.
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Deputies then contacted Mike Walck, a State Brand Inspector who does some work for the Colorado Department of Agriculture, to see if he could identify a brand or any markings that would lead investigators to the animal’s owner.
“Theoretically, if it was branded, you might be able to track it back to who owned the animal,” Walck said.
However, the horse had not been branded, and had no identifying marks. Colorado does not require livestock owners to brand animals, according to Walck, making an owner more difficult to track down in this case.
“So far we don’t have much to go on,” Walck said. “We don’t know if we’re dealing with a hunter who was just passing through and decided the horse wasn’t going home, or what. There could be many scenarios, you just don’t know.”
Chandler’s initial reaction when she saw the horse, with most of its front half covered from head to hoofs in blood, was that the animal was not going to make it.
“He had bled profusely from the nose,” Chandler said. “And I was 99 percent positive it was a gunshot wound.”
When they led him out of the trailer at the farm, he was able to get up and walk around Chandler said. She waited until morning to assess the horse’s condition. That’s when she came to the conclusion that the horse was shot with .22 caliber rifle in the front of the nose. An exit wound was discovered about five inches below its right ear. The bullet penetrated and fractured the horse’s sinus cavity narrowly missing its brain, she explained.
The horse was wobbling when they found it, and Chandler believed that it suffered a concussion from the impact of the bullet.
Not knowing what happened, she could only speculate on how the events of the night unfolded. But, Chandler said she thought the horse was well groomed and that “this is not a neglected horse.” Its mane and tail had been recently brushed before being shot, which leads her to believe that this horse was very special to someone.
“I think someone made a difficult choice,” she said. “I think someone was very attached to him.”
She speculated that the horse was not restrained when it was shot because it was found without a bridal. She said that the impact of the bullet most likely caused the horse to run away. She speculated that when whomever shot the horse saw the amount of blood, they most likely expected the horse would die, and left. That’s the most frustrating part for her.
“That is where the problem is,” she said. “When you do something like this, you finish the job.”
The sheriff’s deputy and Walck tracked the half mile blood trail from the animal to a location, west of Rulison, where they believe the horse was shot. Tracks – which they believe to be consistent with a truck and trailer – were found at the scene, according to sheriff’s office reports.
It was Chandler’s opinion that someone intentionally took the horse to the location to put it down. She said that she also discovered the horse to have a chronic knee problem in its left knee and determined that the horse is not able to be ridden. Leading to the speculation that someone wanted to put it down because it had become more of a burden to take care of.
This is the only botched killing of a horse that Walck can remember in his 25 years as a brand inspector in Colorado.
However, Colorado Cattleman’s Association President Paul Bernklau of Rifle said that this is a much bigger problem than most people may realize since the closing of the last three remaining horse slaughter houses in the United States in 2007.
“This is the topic all over the U.S.,” Bernklau said. “We’ve got some real problems, not only here, but all over the U.S.”
Bernklau said the situation began with the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which was designed to prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
The bill was passed by the House or Representatives in 2006, but was blocked by the Senate later that year, according to the Library of Congress.
An amendment to the bill was introduced in 2007 prohibiting the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption, and for other purposes, according to the Library of Congress.
Nonetheless, it’s caused confusion for ranchers and horse owners who have to deal with aging horses.
Before the Horse Protection Act, horses were often sold to slaughter houses and the meat was shipped overseas for human consumption, or used in dog food or to feed carnivorous zoo animals, Bernklau said.
“People thought that was inhumane and they stopped that,” he said. “Now there is no place to dispose of them.”