Abuse malnourishment animal services
A ranch on Artesian Road near Rancho Santa Fe where the county is working with animal owners regarding allegations of unsafe conditions. Photo credit: OnScene.TV

The county’s animal control department is working to resolve complaints of horse neglect at two properties in San Diego County, an official said Thursday.

The first complaint dates from March and involves allegations of substandard care at a ranch near Rancho Santa Fe. The San Diego County Department of Animal Services was called to the property in the 7600 block of Artesian Road in response to a report of a horse in distress, according to the agency.

Animal Services dispatched an officer to the scene, officials said, finding one elderly horse down. The horse’s owner and veterinarian responded to calls to provide humane euthanasia, but the animal died before euthanasia could be provided.

Officials said Animal Services’ investigation is ongoing, as other horses remain on the property.

Between 40 and 50 horses allegedly had been receiving substandard care at the ranch, according to various news reports.

On Thursday, Chuck Westerheide, communications officer for the county’s public safety group, which includes the animal control department, told City News Service that it appeared unlikely at this point that officials would remove the animals.

“We’re continuing to work with the owners to make sure we can get voluntary compliance with rules and regulations of animal ownership,” Westerheide said. “It’s an ongoing process very similar to that with code compliance. We tell them what we think is going on, and we want to work with them to fix whatever needs fixing.”

The property owners, identified by CBS8 as Craig Netwig and Debra Barkely, could not be reached for comment. The pair are listed as thoroughbred racehorse breeders and owners by the industry website Equibase.

Mike Marten, a spokesman for the California Horse Racing Board, told CNS that Netwig and Barkely are both licensed as horse owners by the board, but that “the horses in question are not located at a facility licensed by the CHRB.”

He said the board will be leave the investigation to the agencies with jurisdiction. Once those inquiries are completed, “the CHRB will determine whether the individual licensed owners have violated any CHRB rules and will proceed accordingly.”

In the second case, multiple residents complained about seeing more than a dozen horses allegedly being neglected at a property on Kauana Loa Drive in Escondido.

One resident told CNS she saw about 14 or 15 horses in the front yard “knee deep in manure,” with “3 feet of old, wet manure in the corrals.”

“We’re further along with them,” Westerheide told CNS. “We gave that owner mandates and the owner is working to meet the mandates.”

“A lot of this has to do with the (recent) rains,” he added. “Horse owners on certain properties where there’s a lot of mud are going to struggle to find a place where there is not mud. They might have to find another place for those animals.

“We don’t want to take people’s animals away, as much as some activists might like us to,” Westerheide said. “We want the owner to get into compliance, unless there’s a life-threatening situation for the animals.”

– City News Service