LANC., PA 17604
Vol. 20 No.2
Our 20th Year
March 2013
Barns, Arenas & Footing
Feature ... pgs. 14-28
by Suzanne Bush
The story is becoming
depressingly familiar. Horses,
lots of horses, neglected and in
trouble, living in squalor. In plain
sight. Passersby are shocked.
Police are called. Humane offi-
cers investigate. Still the animals
seem no closer to rescue and
safety. Doesn’t anyone care?
The answer is, yes. Lots of
people care, and lots of people
are frustrated, angry and pro-
foundly saddened by the sight of
animals in distress. But the path
from problem to solution is not
always straight. Nor is it obvi-
ous. That fact marks the begin-
ning and leads to the ongoing
resolution of what appears to be
a stunning case of equine neglect
in Pennsylvania. It’s a nightmare
of a case in which the truth is as
elusive as a dream.
In December 2012 five
horses—reportedly severely
malnourished—were taken
from Rebecca Roberts’ farm on
Laudermilch Road in Palmyra. In
January the remaining 24 horses
were removed. Amy Kaunas,
Executive Director of Harrisburg
Humane Society says that the
conditions were “horrific. Most
of the horses, when it gets to this
point, they are actually wild, they
can’t even be touched.”
The case was made even
more controversial as a result of
the misinformation surrounding
it, adding a lot of overheated ac-
cusations against the farm owner,
the Humane Society, and the po-
lice—suggesting that the people
who should protect these animals
were ignoring their responsibili-
ties. Kaunas says that the United
States Constitution, specifically
the Fourth Amendment, affords
many levels of protection to the
owners of animals in these situa-
tions. “The laws are constitutional
rights. A person has a right to
their property. You can only enter
Neglected Horses Seized--Why Did it Take So Long andWho’s at Fault?
a person’s property when there are
exigent circumstances, when the
animal is dying in front of you.”
Roberts’ attorney, Tom
Beveridge, says that the Humane
Society misplayed their hand
right from the beginning. “From a
practical perspective, the mission
of the Harrisburg Humane Society
is not just to prevent cruelty to
animals,” he says. “It’s also to edu-
cate the public. If there were prob-
lems here, why didn’t the Humane
Society offer assistance in order to
correct these concerns?”
Horses Suffering in
Plain View
In Facebook posts, concerned
citizens expressed outrage that
horses in a pasture in Palmyra
were starving, sick and apparently
ignored by the agencies meant
to protect them. Commenting
anonymously under the names
“Justice for Route 743 Morgans”
and “Neglected Horses,” posters
questioned why nothing was done
to help this herd of horses for
more than two years. They cited
instances where investigators
allegedly failed to process war-
rants properly. They stated that
police were called frequently. The
misery of the horses, according to
the posters, went on for two and a
half years before the horses were
finally seized by the Humane
“We got a referral mid-De-
cember,” Kaunas says. “We vis-
ited the defendant on December
28.” As for the assertion in the
Facebook posts that repeated calls
to the police did not result in any
action, Kaunas says that’s just not
true. “The state police have no re-
cords of multiple phone calls and
complaints. They received one
phone call two years ago from
an anonymous caller. There were
absolutely not multiple calls.” The
State Police said that they could
not comment on the case—or
on the assertion that many calls
had been made—since an active
investigation was ongoing, and a
court hearing was scheduled.
Kaunas says that when they
got the call from the local State
Police troop, the Harrisburg
Humane Society officers “took
a drive out and immediately we
could clearly see from the road
that there was a horse with a body
score of 1.” The Henneke Body
Scoring system measures a horse’s
body condition, and a score of 1
indicates that the horse is “ex-
tremely emaciated, with no fatty
tissue.” The system is used by
police and humane investigators,
because it is standardized, requires
no special equipment, and the
animals can be assessed visually.
Once they were able to see
an animal in obvious distress,
Kaunas says, they began their
protocol for resolving cases. Their
first step is to try to get the owner
to get veterinary help for the
animals, and to educate the owner
about proper care for the animals.
“We always try to do an educa-
tion. We ordered vet care within
a finite time frame,” she explains.
Since they could not see the
whole herd, they didn’t recognize
how desperate the situation was.
“We have to have probable
cause to even begin an investiga-
tion,” Kaunas says. “And there
has to be probable cause for us
to get a warrant. Even if you tell
me there are five sick dogs in
someone’s house, I can’t just bust
into their houses and take the
dogs.” She said police officers
operate under the same standards.
Roberts, according to
Kaunas, failed to get veterinary
care for her horses. When Hu-
mane Society officers returned to
check on the situation, they saw
a dead horse, and that’s when the
investigation began. Beveridge
says that the dead horse had been
euthanized by a veterinarian.
“The horse was still there when
they (the Humane Society agents)
went back to seize the horses,
(Continued on page 8)
A herd of 24 Morgan horses was seized in January from a farm in Palmyra, PA. Owner Rebecca
Roberts had been warned to provide veterinary care in December, when five malnourished horses
were taken. Amy Kaunas of the Harrisburg Humane Society said none had a body score higher than
three and that the horses are feral.
Photo credit: Harrisburg Humane Society
Local thoroughbred Cerro is on the Derby trail…pg. 34
National championships awarded to local Standardbreds…
pg. 4
Easy keeper? Read Penn Vet’s take on metabolic
disease…pg. 29
Am I obligated to report abuse I’m not sure I saw?…pg. 33
We’ve got (lots and lots of) your mail…pg. 31
...and much more!
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