June 2015 Issue - page 1

Vol. 22 No. 6
Our 22nd Year
June 2015
LANC., PA 17604
Latest Twist in Starving Morgans Seizure: Owner Rebecca Roberts Dies
by Amy Worden
After almost two and a half
years, one of the costliest and
longest-running cruelty cases in
the history of the Humane Soci-
ety of Harrisburg Area has come
to an end.
The more than two dozen
Morgan horses, starving and
feral, removed from a filthy
Dauphin County farm in January
2013 were freed from their legal
limbo with the death in March of
their owner.
Rebecca Roberts, 55, an
attorney and Morgan sport horse
breeder, died shortly before
a Dauphin County judge was
scheduled to hear an appeal on
her 2013 animal cruelty convic-
The circumstances of
Roberts’ death were unclear and
her attorney Eric Winter did not
return a request for comment.
“Yes, it’s over,” said Amy
Kaunas, executive director of the
Humane Society of Harrisburg
Area, breathing a sigh of relief.
She said no family members
sought to claim the horses and
the only lingering legal issue
is restitution for a portion of
the sizeable medical care, feed,
board and training bills for the
The Dauphin County District
Attorney’s office, which was
prosecuting the case, is seeking
roughly $20,000 in restitution
ordered by Dauphin County
Magisterial District Judge Lowell
Witmer in April 2013.
But that payment, if it is
received, will barely put a dent
in the bill for the horses’ care
incurred by the humane society
and rescue partner Gentle Giants
Draft Horse Rescue, which now
totals more than $250,000. The
bill could reach $500,000 when
the final costs are tallied, said
Seizure of 29 Horses in 2012
The case began in late 2012
when authorities obtained a
search warrant to enter Roberts’
dilapidated Palmyra, PA farm
where she operated Shadow-
land Morgans and Sport Horses.
In all 29 horses were removed
from Roberts’ property over two
days, including pregnant mares,
yearlings, stallions and one horse
so weak it had to be carried onto
the trailer.
The size of the seizure over-
whelmed the cat-and-dog focused
humane society, which at the time
had no stable to house the horses
(it has since built one.) Officials
reached out to Gentle Giants
Draft Horse Rescue in Mt Airy
Md., which stepped in to help
even though Morgans are not a
draft breed.
The sight of the herd of
emaciated horses trapped in a
paddock with no access to food,
filthy water and standing atop
piles of manure as high as the
fences stunned even seasoned
equine rescuers. The bodies of
deceased horses in a falling down
run-in shed and skeletal remains
in the field added to the horror,
recalled Christine Hajek, founder
and director of Gentle Giants
Draft Horse Rescue.
Getting the horses out of a
bad situation was only the begin-
ning of the ordeal. It took months
to for experienced handlers even
to put halters on the horses – who
had become wild from complete
neglect and lack of any human
interaction - and get them the
veterinary and hoof care they
desperately needed, Hajek said.
The size of the herd has
changed since the seizure. Mirac-
ulously, five foals were born in
the care of rescuers and survived.
But one stallion had to be euth-
anized after severing his leg on
wire fencing while trying to es-
cape from a pasture in Maryland
and a mare bled to death after
giving birth to a stillborn foal –
likely the result of poor nutrition,
caretakers said.
The 32 remaining horses are
scattered across two states, some
living at the humane society barn,
others at foster farms and profes-
sional boarding facilities.
Serge, a bay stallion almost
euthanized because he could not
be controlled, is being boarded
and trained at Sunset Valley Farm
in Union Bridge, Md.
Hajek worries about what
will happen to Serge and the
others. Serge was gelded and has
been working under saddle with
a professional trainer, Jessica
Millard, but he has a deep fear of
men and must be sedated to get
his hooves trimmed.
Challenges Continue
Even after two years, the
horses are not ready for adoption,
certainly not by novice horse
people, said Kaunas. The humane
society works with other profes-
sional trainers and has started
several horses under saddle, but
others are still far from being
trusting equine companions.
“We’re looking to move
toward offering them on a foster
care-to-adoption basis,” she said.
The horses born after the
seizure are progressing faster
than those who survived the
horrid conditions, who still have
a distrust of humans and no
understanding of boundaries, said
(Continued on page 7)
Pastures & Fencing feature …
pgs. 12-23
Pitts, Udall propose eliminating 90% of
wagering on horseracing … pg. 9
Equine events at Farm Show Complex generate
$28 million plus …. pg. 10
Bethany Baumgardener wins at Willowdale &
Radnor … pgs. 8 & 25
Phillip Dutton once again is highest placed
American at Rolex … pg. 6
... and much more!
Amy Kaunas, Executive Director of the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area, visited with Hickory, one of
the “untouchable” horses the rescue has been caring for since January 2013, in March. The “untouch-
ables” were so fearful of people they could only be herded from one place to another. Hickory is now
halter broke and working on a longe line, and may be under saddle soon.
Photo credit: Jeffrey C. Eyre
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