Rescued horses need new homes

06/02/2011 12:00 AM

06/02/2011 6:15 AM

When the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office seizes horses whose owners are violating the Kansas animal cruelty statute, it takes them to a rehabilitation facility in Kechi.

Once the animals progress, the office can transfer the horses to Hope in the Valley Equine Rescue and Sanctuary, near 95th North and Broadway.

Right now, both facilities have a problem, said Detective Dale Butcher — they're full.

"And we're still having seizures so we're limited on space," Butcher said.

To help make room for new horses, Hope in the Valley is offering more than 20 horses at its adoption day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Ande Miller, founder of Hope in the Valley — a not-for-profit that survives on donations — said the shelter saw a great turnout from its first adoption day in 2010 and is hoping for the same. Several attendees in 2010 also decided to volunteer throughout the year.

Thirty-seven animals currently live at Hope in the Valley — a number that includes donkeys, ponies, horses and a llama.

"We've got a little bit of everything," Miller said.

The horses available for adoption have lived at the facility for about six months, though the Sheriff's Office has had some of the horses for more than a year, Butcher said.

Until Butcher presents an animal's case to the district attorney and the court decides the owner can no longer have the animal, the animal lives at the Kechi facility, he said. Then, if it can be rehabilitated and adopted, the county places it at Hope in the Valley.

Sometimes, if the animal is in bad condition, the county must euthanize it, which is the worst-case scenario, Butcher said.

He offered several reasons people fail to take care of their animals.

With the economy, maintaining food and veterinary costs for a horse or other large animal can become more difficult, he said.

"Once people are laid off or they can't make their bills, the first thing they're going to do is stop paying" for their animal, Butcher said.

Other times, people suffer from animal hoarding, a mental illness that makes them keep large numbers of animals on their property, Butcher said. Often, the animals do not have enough room to exercise or access to adequate food. The Sheriff's Office has seized 40 animals from one owner, he said.

Other times, animal owners have the means to take care of their animals, but they choose not to, for whatever reason.

The Sheriff's Office looks for several signs that an owner is not caring for an animal properly, including unsafe conditions, lack of food or neglect.

"Any time a citizen notifies us, we'll go out and inspect it," Butcher said.

To report an instance of animal cruelty, call the Sheriff's Office at 911 or Sedgwick County Animal Control at 316-660-7070. Residents of Wichita may call the city's animal control at 316-350-3366.

With this process of seizure and rehabilitation, more animals will need loving homes — which Miller feels is humans' duty to provide after the work these animals have done.

"They're great horses, and they deserve to live out the rest of their lives being happy and healthy," she said.

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