Animal Cruelty Leads to Mass Deaths of Horses in Lassen County CA

This was emailed to me today by Beth Decaprio of The Grace Foundation in California:

Hi, I am writing to you today on behalf of The Grace Foundation of Northern California. We are trying to spread the word about a horrific animal cruelty case that we have been working with. This man has been accused of killing over 25 horses living on his property, Whispering Pines, and neglecting and starving over 50 more. Our rescue took in the over 50 survivors when the bank foreclosed on his property, but now that hes has filed for bankruptcy, if he wins the cases the remaining horses will be returned to him as no animal cruelty charges have been filed against him yet. Our goal is to raise awareness of this case, hopefully to a national level, in the hope of preventing future cases like this one. Below is the entire story of this case. Please read the story and consider helping us protect and care for these helpless horses by posting the story on your blog along with a link to our video and our website so your readers will be able to find out how they can help with this case. Thank you for your time.

Please Help End a Horrific Case of Animal Cruelty

This is a story of extreme animal cruelty involving over one hundred horses. Twenty-five of these horses were found dead above ground, with dozens more presumed dead in mass burial sites or “bone pits,” as the owner of the horses has openly admitted.
The story began when cell tower workers that were working adjacent to the property known as “Whispering Pines stables” in Lassen County, CA witnessed a dead dog tied to a tree and many horses dead and dying at the property. These workers had full view of the surviving members of this emaciated herd. The fifty plus starving horses were foraging for food around the corpses of their babies, mothers and friends.
Animal control made contact with Dwight Bennett the owner of Whispering Pines and Mr. Bennett confirmed that he owned the horses at Whispering Pines.

While Mr. Bennett has never denied that dozens of horses were dead and dying on his property and under his care, he has maintained that someone was poisoning the horses. A standard necropsy, performed on any one of the horses that had died could have confirmed or denied the presence of poison but animal control never investigated further.

In April 2011 Mr. Bennett agreed to give Lassen County animal control ownership of twenty of the most severely emaciated horses on his property and two dogs. The Grace Foundation of Northern California was contacted to help with the case and was asked by Lassen County to provide the care for these horses. The Grace Foundation of Northern California brought in their team of experts, including Julie McBride, a licensed therapist who assists with hoarding and cruelty cases, and Dr. Michael W. Russell a veterinarian that specializes in large animal Veterinary care.

The neglect was documented by The Grace Foundation experts. Videos and photos of twenty-three of the dead horses were taken and reports from both Dr. Russell and Ms. McBride clearly stated their professional opinion that all of the animals should be removed from the property.
The Grace Foundation of Northern California took possession of all twenty horses and agreed to cover the majority of the costs for the twenty horses care. The Grace Foundation of Northern California was assured that if they helped with building the case that Lassen would pursue criminal charges and get the rest of the horses removed from Mr. Bennett’s care.
After months of waiting for justice to be served and the person (Dwight A. Bennett) responsible for the deaths of more than 25 horses and the abuse and neglect of over 50 additional horses, to be held accountable, The Grace Foundation of Northern California was absolutely devastated to learn (through a reliable source) that the Lassen County District Attorney, Robert (Bob) Burns, had indicated that for the time being he had NO plans to file charges against Bennett.

While The Grace Foundation of Northern California appreciates and respects the difficult jobs our government officials have been assigned to, they also believe that it is our responsibility to be a voice for our most innocent, even when it may not make us popular with some.

Thankfully, most of the time our system works like it should, but there are many instances when the system becomes “out of order.” When this happens, it is the responsibility of those who have witnessed the break down in the system, to point it out and help get it back on track. This is one of those cases. As it happens, the break in the system did not only affect the animals that were being harmed. Bennett also had two foster children placed into his care. Many of you must be wondering how this could happen? How could this be? That is what The Grace Foundation of Northern California wanted to know, as it certainly appeared our judicial system seemed to have truly failed.

In the kind of plot-twist that would strike moviegoers as implausible, The Grace Foundation of Northern California started to understand just how far back the break in the system seems to be, and just how deep it truly runs. They were shocked to find out that the breech in the system began over three years ago, when calls started coming in to the Lassen County Animal Control regarding potential animal cruelty at Whispering Pines. And that the calls appeared to go unanswered. Maybe it was due to the horses not being in AS bad of condition at that point in time? OR perhaps it was because a Lassen County Animal Control Officer named Judy Waelsch owned and kept a horse at Whispering Pines? That horse was one of the first horses that came to Grace through Whispering Pines in April, which Bennett had surrendered. Ms. Waelsch has since recued herself from this case and the case is now being handled by the Assistant Director of Public Works, Lassen County.

While all of this was going on and 25+ horses were lying dead in the yard of Mr. Bennett’s home, 2 foster children (first a teenage girl, then a teenage boy) were placed in his “care” and as records show in his bankruptcy papers, the foster child is Mr. Bennett’s only source of income.

The Grace Foundation of Northern California knows that sometimes animal cruelty is not taken serious, but they were shocked to think “the break” could affect innocent foster children that are at the mercy of our governing system to keep them safe. Surely, anyone placing children in this man’s care would have visited his home and would have clearly seen the dead horses lying in plain sight of the entrance to the Whispering Pines property? If they missed the dead horses, they absolutely would have had to interview the people living in the dilapidated trailers that litter the property?

The Grace Foundation of Northern California’s shock turned to horror, as they learned that the answer for this breech may have to do with the fact that Mr. Bennett’s son-in-law works for the agency responsible for placement of foster children in Lassen County.

All of the time this was going on, the Whispering Pines property was being foreclosed upon. The foreclosure, which is all too familiar to many of us and is typically a very sad and unfortunate sign of the times, actually became THE “saving grace” for the 36 horses that were still alive on the property! All this, was happening while Lassen County was supposedly about to press charges against Bennett.

A court appointed “Receiver” of the property, which included the 36 living horses, turned out to be the living angel that the horses so desperately needed. Vicki Lozano and her daughter began feeding the Whispering Pines horses 12 bales of hay each day – morning and evening – in July. The horses were finally safe…at least that is what The Grace Foundation of Northern California believed when they were asked to take possession of the remaining horses in August.

Yet, with everything in life, if a break is not properly fixed, the weakness gives way and a catastrophic event can occur . . . that is where this case is today.

Before the State’s ruling on Mr. Bennett’s property could be finalized once and for all, Mr. Bennett filed for bankruptcy during the 11th hour, halting the foreclosure and freezing his assets. Without any animal cruelty charges having EVER been filed against Mr. Bennett by Lassen County Animal Control, he was free to claim that the horses (that had somehow managed to live through his abuse and neglect), were now his only assets! Unbelievably so, Mr. Bennett put a valuation of $195,000 on the horses and made them part of his estate. In addition, this has also left Mr. Bennett free to get more animals and foster more children. All the while, Mr. Bennett openly admits that he does not have the resources to care for the horses – his assets – if he were to get them back! And there is a possibility that this COULD occur, if this blatant wrong is not corrected, and justice does not prevail.

These thirty-six horses now must be held in “protective custody” for an indefinite amount of time as Mr. Bennett’s bankruptcy case goes through the courts. This puts the last 36 surviving horses in danger, but this also will effect the lives of the pregnant mares and the at least 18 confirmed unborn foals, that have somehow miraculously survived this ordeal! (An additional 11 mares may also be pregnant, but that has not yet been confirmed.)

The Grace Foundation of Northern California is now left to carry the financial burden for these horses. The situation became direr when blood tests performed on the female horses revealed that eighteen of the mares are over 45 days pregnant. An additional 11 mares may also be pregnant, but that has not yet been confirmed.

Had Lassen County upheld the California State Law regarding animal cruelty none of this would be happening. The Grace Foundation of Northern California would have been able to move forward with placing these horses in permanent homes and our system of government would have insured that a man responsible for the death of dozens of animals could not harm anymore innocent victims.

The Grace Foundation of Northern California has never felt so determined to see that a case does not just become another tragically sad case of animal cruelty. It is, however, bigger than them and they cannot do it on their own.

That is why The Grace Foundation of Northern California is pleading with each and every one of you to PLEASE help us with this case, in whatever way you possibly can.

Below please find a link an article that ran in the local newspaper, The Lassen Times, a link to a video about three of the horses involved in this case, as well as a link to The Grace Foundation of Northern California’s website.
Lassen article:
http://www.lassennews.com/home/7231-county-officials-review-horse-ranch-information

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQ0jZbkVgdM&feature=youtu.be

The Grace Foundation website: www.thegracefoundationofnorcal.org

— end —

I found the following info about this issue online…

Justice for Animals – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Justice-for-Animals/142646019168086

Please help bring horse murderer to justice – http://www.standupzone.com/forum/index.php?topic=13547.15

Grace Foundation and the latest victims of the economic downturn | Ride Magazine

Please take the time to take action and ask for justice for all these poor horses that suffered and died at the hands of this man.

Please re-tweet: #AnimalCruelty Leads to Mass Deaths of #Horses in Lassen County CA http://alove4horses.com/?p=2737 Pls RT