By Mike Dello Stritto

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. bigskyz says:

    I lived in Japan and was quite aware of the animal welfare atrocities there that included horses. Horse meat is NOT a necessary source of protein for ANYONE in japan or France (or Iceland, where horse meat is a main staple). Horse meat sushi is on every menu. Beautiful, healthy horses are imported – clearly visible as being for slaughter – and selected daily by sushi chefs for a price SO high, we could not outbid the chefs – even in the thousands of dollars (to try to rescue a beautiful, trained, healthy horse). There is NO need for horse meat on anyone’s menu when cattle, sheep, goat, fish, and poultry are plentiful. End of story.

    1. Cavallodifiero says:

      You said it Big, there is a sick sadistic streak in some folks, who want to eat a more exotic animal just because they can!

      1. NotATreeHugger says:

        Like it or not, horses are LIVESTOCK, no less than cows and sheep. Just because they are easier to train than other animals does not necessarily give them special powers and privileges. A trained horse is certainly worth more than an untrained one, but there are far more horses than there are people with the means to properly care for them. Would you rather they starve to death in fields? Or feed hungry humans? If we shipped all of our unwanted horses to Africa, it would put a huge dent in the number of starving children. Quit humanizing animals!

  2. Carleen Lane says:

    people are letting their horses starve to death because there is no outlet when people run out of money. The only slaughter places for horses now is Canada or Mexico. What does a person do if they llive in a condo, apartment, or house on a lot and they cannot sell or give away their horse, especially old ones or pasture ornaments that no-one has bothered to ride for years and if they were ever trained, they have forgotten their training. Small wonder that they ae just letting them die. We need a humane place to send unwanted horses. Slaughter is better than dying of starvation. Sad, but true. That goes for the surplus of Wild Mustangs too.

    1. Cavallodifiero says:

      Carleen if you can’t sell it, how about investing a few dollars to euthanize it. There are plenty of rescues around that will either help find a horse in that situation a new home, provide hay for someone who is on temporary hard times, or a vet to euthanize the animal. No lame excuses okay?

      1. Kathy says:

        American still slaughters as many of its horses as ever, they are just exported to Canada or the US to die, so if having slaughter is supposed to save horses from this sort of fate, why does this still happen? Slaughter is just an excuse to allow overbreeding and not having to take responsibility for the animals life and end of life. It’s big business that drives the slaughter industry, not care or concern for the horses’ welfare.

      2. Carleen Lane says:

        Dear Kathy I have two resue horses in my back yard. I have a backhoe, tractor, and 100 acres when they need to go to the Happy Hunting ground. A lot of people do not have that option. Wild horses are over populating the West also. It has gotten out of hand. There are 1,000 retired race horses in New York right now that will be running out of $$$ for care. Over the last 40 years I have had several resue horses and I don’t even look for them. Never had to slaughter one yet. I am very lucky. Carleen Lane, Astoria Oregon.

    2. Carleen Lane says:

      There are many thousands of horses living in un-natural conditions. Some do not even have turnout. They are locked in a box stall completely dependent on their person to come resue them hopefully once a day and run them around on a lounge line if they are lucky or ride around in circles in an indoor arena. No wonder so many are neurotic and chew their stalls, weave, and kick their stalls until they become unmanageable for anyone. Their are many horse clinics around now to try to deal with these neurotic horses. My kids used to beg and beg to board their horses even though we had 100 acrea so they could hang out with the barn buddies. Most of my horse 4-H kids boarded in barns but at least they had something for their horses to do. Hopefully, the Clinicians will tell them that their horses need to go outside.

      1. Cavallodifiero says:

        You write very well Carleen, but you must learn to hone your reading skills. If everyone who had a horse they could no longer take care of, and could not rehome in a reliable environment, would put it down, there would be no glut. I have a number of horse and have been blessed to be able to take care of them, in the absence of that ability, I would have to take my own advice, and I truly love my horses.

    3. Aisling says:

      actually thats not the case,people throw away horse they use for money if they cannot make them money, so it boils down to the money.period,many people who love and dedicate their lives to helping,training and riding these animals would know that nothing, no matter what stands between that bond,slaughter, in any part these days is INHUMANE!!!!! I HAVE GONE MYSELF TO A HORSE SLAUGHTER FACILITY AND IT IS SO SICK!!! they do not provide a quick death to these guys they scream and suffer and i hunt, so i get how it is to be quick in a kill, but in any case, you are what you eat, and the research and time i have given to food, meats and how the overpopulation is a huge crisis for food,go to a slaughter house before you comment on a global issue, over breeding and not euthinizing when needed is also a problem

      1. Carleen Lane says:

        There is another angle to the slaughter of horses who no longer are wanted. In Africa there are huge “ranches” who raise native wildlife for hunters to hunt and pay a fee. This money goes to save the habitat of the wild(not farm raised) native species. There are also many hunting, fishing clubs who invest millions to improve habitat of the species they are hunting and fishing for. Why not take the meat of the horses who no longer can make it and sell the meat for money to give to horse rescues to save the still usable horses? Sure it should be humane slaughter methods but how can we control the methods if horse slaughter is not allowed in the Continental United State? I think the people who banned horse slaughter here in the U.S. caused the problems we are seeing right now. No-one really makes a lot of money raising horses when you consider how much it takes to raise a horse to even riding age let alone keep it till it dies of natural causes at 20-30 years of age. We are not doing the horse any favors by forcing people to keep horses they don’t want anymore and no-one else does either. I think it is more important for them to feed themselves and their families. This could be a global problem but I think we in the United States take better care of all our animals than they do overseas. Everyone is knocking themselves out trying to get people knowledgable enough to train the Mustangs. Special contests like “Road to the Horse”, but it is a very dangerous activity to take a wild horse and make something of it. I have ridden all my life and I am too chicken to take on a truly wild horse even though I have trained a couple young horses myself.

    4. J George says:

      The wild mustangs need to be given back their ranges. The BLM has been taking way too many horses off their herd areas in the name of managing them. However, it’s pretty obvious that the land supports more wild horses than BLM says it will. The 1971 Act gave America’s wild horses protection on approx 53.4 mil acres but the BLM has reduced that to less than 34 mil acres. Funny how land that wouldn’t support a few hundred horses ends up with either thousands of cows, a mine, or is leased by oil/gas industry. In 1971, not one member of the House or Senate voted against the Wild Free Roaming Horses & Burros Act but 40 yrs later more than half of the existing horses are in BLM holding pens. Disgraceful.

    5. J George says:

      And as others have said, slaughter is not the solution. People have always abused and neglected horses, whether the slaughter plant was nearby or not. [Search SPCA 340 starving horses – this farm is less than 200 miles from the Bouvry slaughter plant.] We cannot prevent the first act of cruelty but we can be observant and report potential abuse to SPCA, IDA, and law enforcementsince animal cruelty is against the law.
      Overbreeding by the Thoroughbred Racing industry, AQHA, & APHA is what has created the problem. Equine rescues would be able to handle the horses of irresponsible owners or those down on their luck if it weren’t for the glut of horses put out by the breeders. Slaughter is a free inhumane disposal service for breeders; if slaughter were not available, breeders would have to become more responsible pretty quick.

  3. Jeannie says:

    Did you all know that when the horses from the USA are shipped to Japan, they are wired together, 3, put in a crate and cannot move and are not fed or watered

  4. Cavallodifiero says:

    Someone said if you want to know a persons character, observe the way they treat a waitress (or a service provider in general). I think you can get the same information on how a person treats a faithful pet, that carried their dead butt all over the back trails for the morons amusement, and what disregard they have for that pet when they no longer want it. Dirt bags!

    1. Cavallodifiero says:

      How much do you send to Africa against the epidemic starvation? You are such a noble person, offering to send horses to starving people for creating good wholesome meals.

      Half of the world have been sending food stuff, money, missionaries and many professionals from different fields for more than fifty years and the only ones to get rich and fat as a result are the armies and government officials. But none of those starving people came to you with their problems.

      What’s your philosophy “When in doubt kill something?”

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