American Humane Association: Contributes $20,000 to Leachman horse Project Home Place | TSLN.com

American Humane Association: Contributes $20,000 to Leachman horse Project Home Place

by Jeri L. Dobrowski

Initial reports of hundreds of horses roaming east of Billings, MT, indicated they were in danger of death from starvation and dehydration. Moderating temperatures, coupled with hay being fed under the direction of the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office, averted such a scenario.

At a press conference on Monday, Jan. 31, Northern International Livestock Exposition (NILE) General Manager Justin Mills said donors from across the country responded to the plea to feed the animals. As of that day, the NILE Foundation had received $30,000 in cash plus commitments of 500 tons of hay.

The NILE was asked by the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office to provide assistance while the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office sort out the legalities of the situation. A total of 10 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty have been brought against James H. Leachman, who owns the horses, including failing to provide a horse with appropriate veterinary care and abandoning an animal.

At the press conference, a representative of the Colorado-based American Humane Association (AHA) presented a check for $20,000. Debrah Schnackenberg, vice president of Red Star Animal Emergency Services of the American Humane Association, said the grant represented contributions by members specifically for the feeding project dubbed Project Home Ranch.

The American Humane Association, the oldest nonprofit animal group, has been protecting children and animals since 1877. Headquartered in Denver, Schnackenberg explained the AHA cares about animals without being radical. In its 2010 annual report, AHA stated it believes people have the right to choose what they eat, as long as animals are humanely raised and handled. For the 2009-2010 fiscal year, 79 percent of the $15.6 million AHA received was spent on programs, including grants such as the one given for the horses.

“We are an animal welfare organization for the average American,” Schnackenberg said. “We stand for the values of mainstream America. We work with state and local groups and committees, offering assistance and training.”

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Ward Fenton, past president of the NILE and current board member, has been keeping an eye on the horses in conjunction with the sheriff’s office. Returning with NILE Assistant Manager Heather Pfancook from an inspection shortly before the press conference, Fenton commented on the feeding of approximately 250 head in the 2,400-acre Tschirgi pasture: “The grass was getting eaten down, but the horses are still able to graze. There’s lots of hay left on the ground from what was fed on Saturday (Jan. 29). They’re getting by fine.

“There are about 10-15 that are thin, but none that are near death. With hay and care,” Fenton continued, “I don’t see any danger of starvation.”

Yellowstone County Undersheriff Kevin Evans said his office has been following the situation closely since mid-December. They determined it was best to leave the horses in place and provide supplemental feed.

“There was no way we could have moved them,” Evans said. “That’s why we contacted the folks at the NILE. They’ve done a phenomenal job of handling the donations and maintaining the horses.”

Uncertain how long they will need to oversee the animals, both Mills and Fenton say they’re glad to help. The project falls within the NILE’s mission of promoting livestock, agriculture education, and respect for the western culture, and its recently established 501(c)3 foundation is able to accept charitable contributions.

“Ranchers brought the problem to light, and ranchers are helping out,” Mills said. “We’ve had a lot of support from the public and have enough hay to keep the horses going while others sort out the legalities.”

The day after the press conference, Schnackenberg and AHA Emergency Services Program Manager Tracy Reis toured the ranch, accompanied by Fenton. Accustomed to rescuing animals in extreme neglect and hoarding cases, they were relieved with what they saw.

“I’m really pleased with how they look,” Reis said. “They’re in good muscle tone. We came wondering how we’d transport the ones that needed care or put down the ones that needed humane euthanization. Being in a large pasture like this, we knew it wouldn’t be easy.”

As it turned out, there was no need to mobilize the AHA emergency team.

Reis spoke of a recent rescue in Arkansas where a hoarder amassed 117 head that were starved and injured. Working with the local sheriff’s office and other animal welfare agencies, she and AHA volunteers from across the country helped transport and care for the sick, emaciated, and injured horses.

The AHA Animal Emergency Services is available to help communities 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Schnackenberg and Reis spoke with admiration of their 200 highly-trained volunteers. To qualify, team members take a two-day basic training class where they are introduced to the incident command system, national response policies, and take Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) courses.

“We are particular about who we accept,” Reis said of those who usually work for a week at a time. “We pay to fly them in and provide housing, so we want a professional group. I feel we have the best trained team in the country doing this type of work.”

Initial reports of hundreds of horses roaming east of Billings, MT, indicated they were in danger of death from starvation and dehydration. Moderating temperatures, coupled with hay being fed under the direction of the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office, averted such a scenario.

At a press conference on Monday, Jan. 31, Northern International Livestock Exposition (NILE) General Manager Justin Mills said donors from across the country responded to the plea to feed the animals. As of that day, the NILE Foundation had received $30,000 in cash plus commitments of 500 tons of hay.

The NILE was asked by the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office to provide assistance while the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office sort out the legalities of the situation. A total of 10 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty have been brought against James H. Leachman, who owns the horses, including failing to provide a horse with appropriate veterinary care and abandoning an animal.

At the press conference, a representative of the Colorado-based American Humane Association (AHA) presented a check for $20,000. Debrah Schnackenberg, vice president of Red Star Animal Emergency Services of the American Humane Association, said the grant represented contributions by members specifically for the feeding project dubbed Project Home Ranch.

The American Humane Association, the oldest nonprofit animal group, has been protecting children and animals since 1877. Headquartered in Denver, Schnackenberg explained the AHA cares about animals without being radical. In its 2010 annual report, AHA stated it believes people have the right to choose what they eat, as long as animals are humanely raised and handled. For the 2009-2010 fiscal year, 79 percent of the $15.6 million AHA received was spent on programs, including grants such as the one given for the horses.

“We are an animal welfare organization for the average American,” Schnackenberg said. “We stand for the values of mainstream America. We work with state and local groups and committees, offering assistance and training.”

Ward Fenton, past president of the NILE and current board member, has been keeping an eye on the horses in conjunction with the sheriff’s office. Returning with NILE Assistant Manager Heather Pfancook from an inspection shortly before the press conference, Fenton commented on the feeding of approximately 250 head in the 2,400-acre Tschirgi pasture: “The grass was getting eaten down, but the horses are still able to graze. There’s lots of hay left on the ground from what was fed on Saturday (Jan. 29). They’re getting by fine.

“There are about 10-15 that are thin, but none that are near death. With hay and care,” Fenton continued, “I don’t see any danger of starvation.”

Yellowstone County Undersheriff Kevin Evans said his office has been following the situation closely since mid-December. They determined it was best to leave the horses in place and provide supplemental feed.

“There was no way we could have moved them,” Evans said. “That’s why we contacted the folks at the NILE. They’ve done a phenomenal job of handling the donations and maintaining the horses.”

Uncertain how long they will need to oversee the animals, both Mills and Fenton say they’re glad to help. The project falls within the NILE’s mission of promoting livestock, agriculture education, and respect for the western culture, and its recently established 501(c)3 foundation is able to accept charitable contributions.

“Ranchers brought the problem to light, and ranchers are helping out,” Mills said. “We’ve had a lot of support from the public and have enough hay to keep the horses going while others sort out the legalities.”

The day after the press conference, Schnackenberg and AHA Emergency Services Program Manager Tracy Reis toured the ranch, accompanied by Fenton. Accustomed to rescuing animals in extreme neglect and hoarding cases, they were relieved with what they saw.

“I’m really pleased with how they look,” Reis said. “They’re in good muscle tone. We came wondering how we’d transport the ones that needed care or put down the ones that needed humane euthanization. Being in a large pasture like this, we knew it wouldn’t be easy.”

As it turned out, there was no need to mobilize the AHA emergency team.

Reis spoke of a recent rescue in Arkansas where a hoarder amassed 117 head that were starved and injured. Working with the local sheriff’s office and other animal welfare agencies, she and AHA volunteers from across the country helped transport and care for the sick, emaciated, and injured horses.

The AHA Animal Emergency Services is available to help communities 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Schnackenberg and Reis spoke with admiration of their 200 highly-trained volunteers. To qualify, team members take a two-day basic training class where they are introduced to the incident command system, national response policies, and take Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) courses.

“We are particular about who we accept,” Reis said of those who usually work for a week at a time. “We pay to fly them in and provide housing, so we want a professional group. I feel we have the best trained team in the country doing this type of work.”

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