EL DORADO HILLS (CBS13) -– A Northern California animal rescue group may need some rescuing of its own after helping save dozens of horses in what some are describing as the worst cases of animal cruelty they’ve witnessed.

Volunteers from The Grace Foundation in El Dorado Hills were not prepared for the conditions it found on a Northern California ranch in April, where the carcasses of 25 horses littered the property, many just the skeletal remains.

“It was just a graveyard for horses,” said Beth DeCaprio of The Grace Foundation. “It was the worst case I had ever seen.”

Graphic video shows the horrific conditions at the Whispering Pines Ranch in Lassen County. Some of the surviving horses were forced to feed off the dead.

On Wednesday, Dwight Bennett, the owner of Whispering Pines Ranch, was arrested and charged with 30 counts of animal cruelty.

“There’s a price to pay when we forget about the innocent and the voiceless,” said DeCaprio.

DeCaprio helped rescue 56 horses over several months, all of them now at The Grace Foundation Ranch in El Dorado Hills. Nursing the ailing equine back to health is a slow and tedious process. And there are about to be more “unexpected” survivors.

“You know, it’s a tragic situation. And these are all young horses under 3 who are all pregnant,” explained DeCaprio.

At least 18 mares are pregnant. And finding homes for the horses is not easy. There aren’t enough people with the means and interest in giving the horses a good home.

And now, tight on cash, The Grace Foundation is in need of some saving of its own to continue its mission to save these horses.

“We’re just desperately asking the community to step up and help us in any way they can,” DeCaprio said.

One of the horses rescued from the ranch is now a police horse for the Folsom Police Department.

Comments (152)
  1. nbri says:

    Alien experiments.

  2. Hank Warren says:

    Illegals and their animals, yet another violation of our rights. Add it to the list of gov’t violations of our rights:
    They violate the 1st Amendment by placing protesters in cages, banning books like “America Deceived II” and censoring the internet.
    They violate the 2nd Amendment by confiscating guns.
    They violate the 4th and 5th Amendment by molesting airline passengers.
    They violate the entire Constitution by starting undeclared wars for foreign countries.
    Impeach Obama, vote for Ron Paul.
    (Last link of Banned Book):

    1. Roze says:

      Dwight Bennett doesn’t sound illegal to me. I’m as anti-illegal as the next person but don’t make us sound like idiots.

    2. PaleoCon says:

      This moron just mindlessly spams every single comment board linked by Drudge promoting some conspiracy book.

      Honestly, I implore you cease using “Ron Paul” in all your comments. You’re doing him a great disservice.

    3. Beth DeCaprio says:

      please watch this video. This is actual footage of the rescue and will give you an idea of what the incredible volunteers at Grace had to witness. This short video also shows the bond that these magnificent animals have with each other. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQ0jZbkVgdM

      1. Kristin Lyle says:

        Unbelievable and horrifying. But we all need to open our eyes and REACT or this will continue. Beautiful animals that deserve so much more. Thank you, Beth.

  3. TXCowgirl says:

    No seas pendéjo, Juan.

  4. Don Franklin says:

    It has recently become illegal to slaughter horses in California. It’s also illegal to trasport horses to Canada or Mexico for slaughter. Okay, so what becomes of horses who have outgrown their usefulness, whether due to age, injury, or simply that their owners can no longer afford to feed and keep them (hay and feed have become extremely expensive), and can’t sell or even give them away? Hence the growth of horse rescue operations, who unfortunately soon find themselves innundated with unwanted and abused horses and the attendant costs far above what charitable donations offset. It used to be that horses could be slaughtered and converted to pet food and fertilizer. There even was a market where buyers bid for unwanted horses. Take your pick liberals … but you can’t have it both ways. Any adults out there?

    1. Denise Beck says:

      This IS NOT THE PROBLEM…Most of the dead were YOUNG, and STARVED..He spent money on illegal drugs instead of hay!!

    2. rosemary says:

      You are absolutely correct. You can’t save them all, and some aren’t worth saving. People used to go to a sale, and take a chance on buying a horse they might be able to rehabilitate because they knew they could get some of their money back at slaughter, if things didn’t work out. Now no one will touch a questionable horse because they know they will be stuck with them. What is worse, horses dying a slow death from starvation or going to slaughter? Just look at it as recycling.

      1. Ann says:

        So you buy a horse and rehabilitate it, making it believe it actually has a home after already living through hell, then you send it to slaughter? That is really sick. Animals are not aluminum cans. If the poor thing can’t be saved, there is such a thing as euthanasia. The reason we read stories such as this is because of people like you – completely without feeling for an animal.

      2. Vicki says:

        Ann… so what would you do with the $1200 lb (tasty & protein-filled) carcass after you euthanized it? Would you just bury it like yesterday’s garbage?

      3. Jubal says:

        I’ve taken, ‘rescued,’ abused horses in the past. Some (few) could be salvaged and live useful, relatively happy lives. Most, sadly, had what few functional brain cells that they started with so messed up that you couldn’t even clean their feet, much less ride them safely. Very, very few of the ‘animal activists’ have ever had first-hand experience caring for such animals, much less the heartbreak of having to make the final decision for them. All you soft-headed, soft-hearted souls that think that animals are equal to humans, or that every human that has to make the ‘final decision’ for a noble creature is an unfeeling beast have a lot to learn about life and humanity. It is the human’s burden to ‘do the right thing,’ especially when it comes to ending an animal’s life.

      4. Badger40 says:

        Rosemary, you are very correct. I am a rancher is North Dakota. Starvation of horses here has also increased, due to owners not knowing what to do with them. Some have been abandoned, which is quite cruel, I assure you.
        You might as well put a bullet in that horse.
        People, horses are NOT PETS. They are LIVESTOCK. I live everyday with these animals. And yes, I love my saddle horse. But he works with me. He is not my pet. I am dominant over him. I am the boss. And I treat him as if I were the dominant horse. This is how it works in nature, real life. Bring back horse slaughter & you will see a lot of this disappear.

    3. Irv says:

      A horse has more protection than an unborn human…

      1. degraonai says:

        Sadly true.

      2. Sheepleherder says:

        Most, SANE, people don’t believe that being starved to death is very good “protection”. You have obviously been reduced to spouting propaganda instead of using your humanity for things like thinking and compassion.

    4. Jacob says:

      It has recently become illegal to slaughter (old people) in California. It’s also illegal to trasport (old people) to Canada or Mexico for slaughter. Okay, so what becomes of (old people) who have outgrown their usefulness, whether due to age, injury, or simply that their owners can no longer afford to feed and keep them ((prunes) and (tapioca) have become extremely expensive), and can’t sell or even give them away? Hence the growth of (retirement homes), who unfortunately soon find themselves innundated with unwanted and abused (old people) and the attendant costs far above what charitable donations offset. It used to be that (old people) could be slaughtered and converted to pet food and fertilizer. There even was a market where buyers bid for unwanted (old people). Take your pick (meat eaters) … but you can’t have it both ways. Any adults out there?

      1. degraonai says:

        horses aren’t people.

      2. jubal says:

        I used to support the slaughter of horses, for pet food, fertilizer, and even human food. Still do. They, the horses, are cattle, just as cows and bison are. Yes, horses are noble creatures. I’ve owned many. My Morgan Horses were more human, more intelligent and more caring that people that I have worked with or for. And I preferred their company to ‘humans.’ But, push comes to shove, a horse has more useful meat than a human, fewer parasites, and is lower in fat. I have celebrated the lives and memories of a number of domesticated animals with the ritual burning of their flesh at an open-air banquet. And, no, I would not do that with homo-sapiens.

      3. Drkwing says:

        degraonai: You are absolutely right! They’re better than people.

      4. Badger40 says:

        horses are not people. Equating an animal to a person is what is wrong with all of this. Jubal is correct.
        Dogs are also animals. The same thing happens to cats & dogs all the time bcs people do not understand you cannot anthropromorphize an animal.
        We are omnivores & there is nothing wrong with the slaughter of horses.
        I sell calves every fall & they are going to be on someone’s table someday. That’s what they are for.
        As a rancher, it is my job to take care of those critters. And I love my cows & calves every bit as much as I do my horses, dogs & cats.
        But they are animals. And they are not people & I do not treat them as such.

    5. Suzette says:

      Actually the California anti-slaughter law has been in effect for awhile now.
      If someone cannot care for their horses and they cannot be sold or given to a good home, a vet can put them down.

      1. Russ says:

        If they can’t afford to feed it do you really think they have the money to take it to the vet and have the carcass disposed of?

      2. Lisa says:

        And then what? Do you have any idea how much it costs to dispose of a horse carcass? Not to mention that rendering plants are few and far between, Can’t donate carcass to wild cats because of the drugs used for euthanasia. Not allowed to bury carcass in back yard either. Don’t get caught dumping it in the creek. There are no easy answers to this situation. I believe in horse slaughter as a way to manage horse populations, increase the food supply (even if it is for France), and ease the burden on the horse rescues.

    6. Steve Mc says:

      And because of that the value of good horses has taken a dive. Put on top of that the tens of thousand “wild” horses the goverment has to remove from ranges every year to prevent overgrazing and starvation and you have a real mess. When libs get any agenda passed you know things are going to he77 in a hand basket fast.

    7. Kristin Lyle says:

      “What becomes of horses who have outgrown their usefulness…..”? Must say this question took my breath away. Look into an animal’s eyes and can you HONESTLY say, “You’re useless”? They are loving, forgiving creatures that deserve so much more than THIS. This whole story sickens me. I am a very conservative Republican, so I believe this has more to do with the state of our hearts and souls than it does with our politics. (And if the above was actually written by Brett’s dad, ugh… sorry, Mr. Franklin, but my feelings are STRONG on this!)

      1. Vicki says:

        Kristin, Your strong emotions are commendable, but what realistic solution can you offer? And why are you damn republicans always so against recycling?

      2. Kristin Lyle says:

        Your comment made me laugh out loud (with you, Vicki… I mean that!)! We recycle everything! So we’re not all like that I guess :). All this is more about helping and saving, rather than about what party we affiliate ourselves with (which I only identified above because the person to whom I was responding was talking about. Truthfully? I have no solution. There isn’t a good one. Same with the shelters and SPCAs…. they’re always in dire straits as well. But they are living beings and deserve so much more. So, not to oversimplify, we can just do our little part. These horses were left to breed and breed and breed… and for what purpose? So many dead horses and others incredibly malnourished AND pregnant. FIX your animals…. but take care of them. Yes, SAVE when you can and even help monetarily. Small steps.

    8. Beatty says:

      Your “facts” are not accurate. Do you really think that horses in California aren’t going to slaughter? Do you believe horse actions with kill buyers are a thing of the past? Horses are shipped from California to slaughter every day of the week…the kill buyers are attending auctions all over the state and transporting them to other states to their holding pens befores shipping them to Canada and Mexico.
      Also, horses have not been used for dog food in the US for the last 20-30 years. Americans refuse to feed their pets horse meat tainted with Bute, Bantamine, wormer, and antibiotics. Too bad those European folks don’t have a clue the American horse meat they are eating is filled with carcinogens…

  5. Denise Beck says:

    Untrue..in this case..Mr. Bennett is a sadistic piece of human filth..and had no problem throwing ANYTHING to the wayside..

    He needs to STAY in jail THIS time!

  6. Rich says:

    It appears that those who claim to promote “animal rights” would prefer neglected horses to humane slaughter. Horses are NOT pets – they are LIVESTOCK. Where did they expect all of the old, sick, diseased, and unwanted horses to go? There aren’t puppies, kittens, and bunnies. They require an incredible expense to maintain. With distressed city, county, and state budgets shelters will struggle to keep up with the care of abandoned and neglected pets, let alone 1,000+ pound LIVESTOCK. There was an efficient system in place to prevent this sort of problem but it was sytematically shut down through misguided legistlation. Being part of a multi-generational farm family and having OWNED, USED, and CARED for horses most of my life I understand the realities and economics of owning LIVESTOCK. Let the activists spend their own money dealing with the cruel results of pursuing of their Disney dream world.

    1. Denise Beck says:


      1. Rosemary says:

        Actually it is the issue, because if the rescues were’t so full of horses that should go to slaughter, they would be able to care for these horses and find them good homes.

    2. Kristin Lyle says:

      And they aren’t pets why? For MANY people they are fantastic “pets”, even though this word evokes thoughts of only dogs and cats. Disagree completely that the “activists” should be spending elsewhere. I’ve watched Grace Foundation in action (they are just down the road from me) and they were NOT going to allow this to happen to these animals… these lives. Bless that foundation and Beth Di Caprio for all that has been done to save the animals (be it chihuahuas or cows).

    3. Laura says:

      The so-called system of horse slaughter you refer to was beyond disgusting and cruel. You people who support these acts make me sick. Slaughtering a horse is not like putting it to sleep- they are savagely killed, so don’t paint it as something it is not. If people would just take responsibility for whatever livestock or pets they own, then rescue groups and individuals like myself would not have to keep trying t o come to the rescue of so many animals. No animal deserves to be killed or starved to death because of irresponsible owners. Take care of your animals, period and quit finding excuses for not.

  7. Denise Beck says:

    I have PERSONAL knowledge about this case. EVERYONE in town does too!! This guy is a HORRIBLE person..and has had the law called on him for everything from Domestic Abuse..Animal Cruelty..Illegal substances..and recently he was GIVEN CUSTODY OF FOSTER CHILDREN!!!
    WAKE UP PEOPLE…Horse disposal is NOT THE ISSUE HERE!!!! These animals were forced to stand in small stalls with FEET of manure..no shelter from the snow..and he NEVER fed them…He has money..he JUST DOESN’T CARE!!

    1. Suzette says:

      Denise, I’m in your camp. Thanks for trying to keep everyone focused and tell people what really happened.

    2. jubal says:

      Kind of like Desi Arnez in Corona, California, right? Look it up or talk to locals. Mr. “I Love Lucy” let 40 horses die from his neglect, if one is to believe his neighbors in Corona.

  8. Beth Ann Clark says:

    related to the Sculptor Bennett’s from that area?

  9. Son Diggity says:

    I’m a liberal and believe in the humane treatment of animals, but I also believe in putting animals down who have served their usefullness and the culling of animals. As a liberal, sometimes I’m embarrassed by some of these stupid policies passed by voters who know nothing of farm or ranch living. Not all liberals are crazy and hypocrites. I for one, as a liberal, won’t be having children. There are practical liberals and idealistic liberals. I’m the former.

    1. Kristin Lyle says:

      Isn’t this more about caring for lives? You mention the word “liberal” so many times throughout, but it shouldn’t really matter. As I mentioned above, I am a staunch conservative, BUT I love animals because they are living, breathing, needy beings that also have no voices of their own. No idea whether this guy was a liberal or a conservative, but it doesn’t matter. His politics shouldn’t determine his HEART for his animals. They deserved at the VERY LEAST food, water, and basic equine care… and then there were the dogs on his ranch — dead. What in the world?

    2. muzjik says:

      I’ll bet you’re thankful that my kids will be working to provide your Social Security payments.

    3. Laura says:

      When is YOUR usefullness up? Who gets to decide these things? Give me a break.

  10. Mitch Shurtz says:

    $2/bullet x 70 horses = $140. Where do I send the check?

  11. Irv says:

    Perhaps the horses on the range should be eliminated PERMANENTLY. They are an introduced species and should eradicated to save the environment.

    1. denies says:

      i sincerley doubt you care at all about saving the environment with that comment. So myopic and jaded, so hateful.

  12. Cavallodifiero says:

    All you who wish to open a slaughterhouse, eradicate wild horses so that pot smoking unwashed sandle wearing escapees from the 60’s can go out and “enjoy nature” and save the environment, get real jobs and stop living off the public dole.

    AS for what to do with an unwanted horse that you can’t make any money on or who carried you and you fat butt mate around faithfuly and is now too tired to lug you about, why not “kindly” invest in a vet visit give it the final shot and release from it’s wasted life with you. And for the guy who says horse meat taste better than beef, get yourself a can of ALPO.

  13. Barbara Soldera says:

    Some pretty hostile people here. Clearly horse slaughter has nothing to do with this specific situation. It is neglect pure and simple. I don’t understand why people are so open to the killing of animals they deem useless. BTW, there’s nothing HUMANE about slaughter. Either you value life and have respect for all the creatures of the planet or you don’t. We are supposed to be stewards of this planet. Try a little compassion and kindness for a change.

  14. LeonidasOfSparta says:

    The article stated– incorrectly– that some horses were forced to feed off the dead. Is this author a dunce or just an ignorant stooge? Horses DON’T/CAN’T eat meat. Their digestive system is perfectly tuned to taking the protein from alfalfa and turning it into muscle.
    That said, I have to say that this person who derelected his duty to care for and nurture these beautiful animals should be jailed for negligent homicide– FOR LIFE.

    1. hello says:

      you clearly don’t understand what the term homicide means.

  15. Gryphon says:

    Kill Mr. Bennett; problem solved.

    Honestly, how could you allow this f’ing dirtball to live?!? What is it?

  16. steve5150 says:

    This guy should be thrown in jail and the horses should be sent to slaughter.
    Nobody wants half starved livestock.

  17. Rodger says:

    Rancher is arrested. Abortion doctors walk free.

    1. denise says:

      one track mind, everything, every issue, boils down to abortion. if you care so much for life, why do you want to kill stuff so badly?

  18. Ken Smith says:

    I seldom comment on things such as this but this article, and some of its comments, strike close to home. Disregarding the unnecessary remarks about drugs, illegals, etc ad naseum, i’m going to comment on the realties of horses for the benefit of those who don’t have a clue. First off, they are expensve, very expensive, to keep and maintain. At today’s prices here where i live, you can easily spend $15-20 per day per horse just for hay and feed. Vet costs just for wormings, vacinations, and the minimum required health tests can esily run several more hundred/year- if a horse gets seriously injured or sick, vet costs can run into the thousands. Those figues do not include the time and labor invested n a horse, nor do they include the associated costs of land, facilities, barns, stables, corrals, taxes, utilities, water, saddles, equipment, travel /trailering/transport expenses, etc ad naseum. Balanced against these costs are depressed sales values that are, for most horses, extremely low. In these parts, a horse sold at public auction frequently will not bring enough to cover the cost of transporting him to the auction nor cover the auction fees. usually, here, a horse will not selll at alll at public auction, no matter how low the price. The result is that a lot of good and well-meaning people wind up caught in a trap where they can’t afford to keep and feed a horse, can’t sell him, can’t give him away, and they can’t legally and humanely kill him nor turn him loose.

    This situation is directly due to the glut of horses, which in turn is the result of good intentions run amok among people and politicans who simply don’t know what the hades they’re doing. Those people who banned the slaughter of horses probably had good intentions but, in banning humane slaughter, they just created a worse problem where some horses live in inhumane conditions, and other horses are trucked to mexico for inhumane slaughter.

    Horse lovers and animal rightists can not have their cake and eat it too. Either some horses are going to die humane deaths or they are going to live iinhumanely and die inhumanely.

    The only other alternative is for the general public to step up and start paying the expenses to maintain a lot of unwanted horses. But it’s been mny experience that animal lovers generally don’t love animals enough to pay those costs.

    1. Kristin Lyle says:

      One horse at a time. Thankfully Grace is willing to take on more. The option is to kill horses that are no longer useful and expensive to maintain. But to do nothing? I guess the suggestion from you is to simply euthanize all the horses from this ranch — the horses that have been through so incredibly much. No way.

    2. Laura says:

      Why don’t you actually explain this “humane” slaughter? It is impossible to call it humane because the horses are brutally killed. At least be honest about how they are killed. Just like in the dog and cat world, quit breeding them to start- that in and of itself will help. Slaughter is not and should never be the “answer”- that is the lazy, greedy way out.

    3. Beatty says:

      There is no such thing as “humane slaughter” in ANY slaughter house whether it be here in the US or Canada or Mexico!! If you had the facts, you would know that.
      Have you ever witnessed a horse being killed by the puntilla knife or captive bolt methods? I have.
      Puntilla knife slaughter involves repeatedly stabbing the horse between the shoulder blades into the spinal cord until the horse is rendered paralyzed. And then it is slaughtered alive. The captive bolt method involves hitting the horse in the head in a very specific location to render the horse unconscious or stunned. However, since it was designed for cattle whose brains sit much closer to the front of the skull, a panicked horse usually has to be hit several times to knock it down. Often, they are slaughtered conscious. Now tell me, what is humane about either method??
      And please don’t suggest that animal lovers don’t care to pay the costs. I have personally donated to, worked for, and adopted from horse rescues alongside many thousands of other caring people.

  19. Jason Smith says:

    So many sociopaths in one comment thread. The United States deserves its fast track to decline. I look forward to the day when most of you will be in similar shape to these horses.

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