3-Strikes fiasco shocks equine community | TSLN.com

3-Strikes fiasco shocks equine community

A mid-April investigation spawned by internet chatter, concerned and observant neighbors, diligent veterinarians, Morrill County law officials and Habitat for Horses official Jerry Finch uncovered the grisly truth that at least 74 head of dependent horses and burros were allowed to starve to death at 3-Strikes Ranch south of Alliance in the Nebraska panhandle during the winter. After this sickening discovery, 211 head of horses, mules and donkeys in varied but serious stages of neglect were rescued from the premises.

Finch and a Morrill County lawman flew over 3-Strikes, spotting two pits filled with horse carcasses and other scattered remains. Bureau of Land Management officials were alerted and went to the ranch, confiscating one emaciated BLM horse and being told another three were dead. They filed a charge of felony animal cruelty, resulting in the jailing of 3-Strikes owner, 42-year-old Jason Meduna.

Authorities obtained a search warrant April 21, enabling them to seize 3-Strikes’ livestock delivery records, birth and death records, Bureau of Land Management records, contracts for care and maintenance, financial records including credit card statements, invoices and receipts for hay, health and veterinary care.

A news story on KCOW Radio said authorities also confiscated non-profit corporation records, computer records and emails, physical evidence of hay equipment and farm machinery, grass clippings and bone samples from horse and burro skeletal remains and carcasses.

3-Strikes Ranch, according to its own website was a “Mustang Outpost, Helping Horses.” Meduna and his wife Anissa ran the facility as a non-profit corporation, purportedly to provide homes for un-adoptable wild horses and for other horses whose owners could not care for them.

The search warrant, filed in Morrill County District Court in Bridgeport, indicates Anissa Meduna told Amanda Davis (a horse owner and former volunteer at the ranch) that the 3-Strikes Ranch was closed as early as December, 2008. Then in February, 2009, Mrs. Meduna told Davis that they were out of money and needed more hay because the horses were starving.

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Morrill County sheriff’s deputies discovered some of the horses living in crowded, filthy pens without access to proper food or fresh water. Officials of the Humane Society of the United States said the rescued animals “were severely emaciated and suffering from overgrown hooves and other untreated medical conditions.”

Habitat for Horses (HfH) is a not-for-profit equine protection agency committed to the prevention, rescue and care of neglected, abused and homeless horses, operating a rehabilitation ranch in Hitchcock, TX, as well as a growing network of foster homes throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and Louisiana. The organization assumes a leadership role in horse protection issues, and when HfH official Jerry Finch heard about Meduna, through sources acquainted with owners of horses kept on the ranch, he decided to make an investigative trip to Nebraska – which ultimately led to Meduna’s incarceration.

“The situation is even worse than we suspected,” Finch reported. “We discovered two large pits filled with carcasses.” He estimated there were some 60 dead horses in the pits, and says more than a dozen other dead horses were found on the property.

HfH released a report stating, “They are suffering from a variety of ailments including severe worm infestation and terribly neglected hooves… Two young foals, approximately four months old, were found dead. Necropsies have been performed on both…”

The foal situation could be serious as an estimated 30 stallions were among the rescued horses, so many mares could be bred. Some have foaled since the horses were rescued.

HfH was not the only horse-friendly organization alerted by the Internet chatter. In addition to the Bureau of Land Management officials, representatives of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue of Lancaster, CA were also attracted to Nebraska by the 3-Strikes Ranch stories.

After posting 10 percent of a $20,000 bond and being released from jail, Meduna was convinced by officials to legally release all horses on the ranch to these organizations, thus facilitating their removal to the Morrill County Fairgrounds.

Once there, the unfortunate equines were able to enjoy clean pens and unaccustomed access to hay and fresh water, as well as medical attention. Along with vet’s Jim and Tom Furman from Alliance, David Hardin, Associate Dean of Professional Program in Veterinarian Medicine at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln – with a team of seven first- and second-year UNL vet students and one Iowa State vet student – they cooperated to implant a microchip in each horse. They also gave the required Coggins tests and dosed each with dewormer, as well as applying insecticide for the removal of ticks.

“One hates to see this sort of thing, but it has enabled the students the opportunity to receive hands-on training as they perform various tasks,” Hardin said; adding they’ll share these experiences with classmates in Lincoln when they return to school.

Once relocated to temporary shelter at the Morrill County Fairgrounds, the horses were sustained by the generosity of members of the Morrill, Box Butte and Scottsbluff County Farm Bureau Chapters who donated $3,000 worth of hay. The more than 12 ton of first cutting alfalfa was grown by Dan Carnine of Angora, NE.

One of the hay donors, Morrill County Farm Bureau member Jeff Metz, said, “We are appalled at the whole situation. What has happened is not the way the farming/ranching community operates, and is totally unacceptable.” He added the Farm Bureau members are prepared to provide still more hay if the horses have to remain at the fairgrounds long enough to use up what they have.

Of the 220 animals at the Fairgrounds, 22 have been identified by their owners and will be returned to them. HfH president Finch and Jill Star of Lifesavers Foundation are seeking relocation sites with individuals and horse sanctuaries throughout the country for the remaining horses, hoping when they’re fit for transportation they can be moved to new homes.

Relocation is being approached with caution to prevent spread of any diseases the bunch could carry, a concern that was raised by Wild Horse Foundation founder Ray Fields. He believes some of the 3-Strikes Ranch herd may have come from a Nevada facility where some horses died from contagious salmonella. The horses at the fairgrounds continue to be monitored by vets, who are also following up any horses returned to their homes.

Christine Griffith, an owner who took three rescued horses home, placed an April 30th posting at http://www.gentledmustangs.com/ stating, “I want the public to know that, in fact, one of my horses came home with an illness from 3-Strikes Ranch.” She has continued to have her horse, Dr. Bill, monitored and administered to by her vet, and he seems to be recovering.

Ms. Griffith’s ongoing postings prove the diligence being exerted to monitor for any possible illnesses. On May 2 she reported: “I got a call from Dr. Tom Furman, Alliance, Nebraska. He was the vet on site at the rodeo grounds where the other horses were taken. He is concerned about Dr. Bill’s health and will be consulting with our vet so they can follow Dr. Bill’s illness, but also if any of the other horses from 3-Strikes become ill.”

Her May 4 posting reported further testing on Dr. Bill and the note that, “Dr. Furman called my vet today for an update too.”

Any of the rescued horses proven to be well and not carrying any disease, are available for adoption; in fact 14 had already been taken by midweek. One news report says people wanting to adopt “should contact Hillary Wood of Front Range Equine Rescue at 719-481-1490. The horses have all received a negative Coggins, have been dewormed, vaccinated and microchipped. Finch strongly cautions that they are looking for those with experience in handling and training wild mustangs, warning, ‘These are not back yard ponies.'” A dedicated website providing photos and descriptions of available animals, as well as forms and contact numbers has been set up at http://nebraska200.horsereunions.com.

The aforementioned John Furman, shares a practice with his father Jim Furman, a working veterinarian for three decades, at Alliance. They’ve both been attending the 3-Strikes survivors. Jim told reporters he had “never seen anything like” the 3-Strikes case. He said, “I’ve seen horses get old and owners have difficulty putting them down…” explaining that the dead horses found at 3-Strikes Ranch weren’t old, maybe only 15 or 16. Furman said he doesn’t believe anyone will ever be able to give an exact number of the horses that have died, and reported the old horses which were rescued are “unidentifiable” due to the effects of starvation. He expects rehabilitating the horses will “be quite a process.”

Furman explained a standardized method of rating horse condition, called a Henneke scale, which goes from 1 (totally emaciated) to 9, which he terms ‘fat.’ Horses in normal condition would rate round 5, but “Horses recovered from the ranch are ranging in a 1 to a 4 on the scale,” he reported.

A mid-April investigation spawned by internet chatter, concerned and observant neighbors, diligent veterinarians, Morrill County law officials and Habitat for Horses official Jerry Finch uncovered the grisly truth that at least 74 head of dependent horses and burros were allowed to starve to death at 3-Strikes Ranch south of Alliance in the Nebraska panhandle during the winter. After this sickening discovery, 211 head of horses, mules and donkeys in varied but serious stages of neglect were rescued from the premises.

Finch and a Morrill County lawman flew over 3-Strikes, spotting two pits filled with horse carcasses and other scattered remains. Bureau of Land Management officials were alerted and went to the ranch, confiscating one emaciated BLM horse and being told another three were dead. They filed a charge of felony animal cruelty, resulting in the jailing of 3-Strikes owner, 42-year-old Jason Meduna.

Authorities obtained a search warrant April 21, enabling them to seize 3-Strikes’ livestock delivery records, birth and death records, Bureau of Land Management records, contracts for care and maintenance, financial records including credit card statements, invoices and receipts for hay, health and veterinary care.

A news story on KCOW Radio said authorities also confiscated non-profit corporation records, computer records and emails, physical evidence of hay equipment and farm machinery, grass clippings and bone samples from horse and burro skeletal remains and carcasses.

3-Strikes Ranch, according to its own website was a “Mustang Outpost, Helping Horses.” Meduna and his wife Anissa ran the facility as a non-profit corporation, purportedly to provide homes for un-adoptable wild horses and for other horses whose owners could not care for them.

The search warrant, filed in Morrill County District Court in Bridgeport, indicates Anissa Meduna told Amanda Davis (a horse owner and former volunteer at the ranch) that the 3-Strikes Ranch was closed as early as December, 2008. Then in February, 2009, Mrs. Meduna told Davis that they were out of money and needed more hay because the horses were starving.

Morrill County sheriff’s deputies discovered some of the horses living in crowded, filthy pens without access to proper food or fresh water. Officials of the Humane Society of the United States said the rescued animals “were severely emaciated and suffering from overgrown hooves and other untreated medical conditions.”

Habitat for Horses (HfH) is a not-for-profit equine protection agency committed to the prevention, rescue and care of neglected, abused and homeless horses, operating a rehabilitation ranch in Hitchcock, TX, as well as a growing network of foster homes throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and Louisiana. The organization assumes a leadership role in horse protection issues, and when HfH official Jerry Finch heard about Meduna, through sources acquainted with owners of horses kept on the ranch, he decided to make an investigative trip to Nebraska – which ultimately led to Meduna’s incarceration.

“The situation is even worse than we suspected,” Finch reported. “We discovered two large pits filled with carcasses.” He estimated there were some 60 dead horses in the pits, and says more than a dozen other dead horses were found on the property.

HfH released a report stating, “They are suffering from a variety of ailments including severe worm infestation and terribly neglected hooves… Two young foals, approximately four months old, were found dead. Necropsies have been performed on both…”

The foal situation could be serious as an estimated 30 stallions were among the rescued horses, so many mares could be bred. Some have foaled since the horses were rescued.

HfH was not the only horse-friendly organization alerted by the Internet chatter. In addition to the Bureau of Land Management officials, representatives of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue of Lancaster, CA were also attracted to Nebraska by the 3-Strikes Ranch stories.

After posting 10 percent of a $20,000 bond and being released from jail, Meduna was convinced by officials to legally release all horses on the ranch to these organizations, thus facilitating their removal to the Morrill County Fairgrounds.

Once there, the unfortunate equines were able to enjoy clean pens and unaccustomed access to hay and fresh water, as well as medical attention. Along with vet’s Jim and Tom Furman from Alliance, David Hardin, Associate Dean of Professional Program in Veterinarian Medicine at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln – with a team of seven first- and second-year UNL vet students and one Iowa State vet student – they cooperated to implant a microchip in each horse. They also gave the required Coggins tests and dosed each with dewormer, as well as applying insecticide for the removal of ticks.

“One hates to see this sort of thing, but it has enabled the students the opportunity to receive hands-on training as they perform various tasks,” Hardin said; adding they’ll share these experiences with classmates in Lincoln when they return to school.

Once relocated to temporary shelter at the Morrill County Fairgrounds, the horses were sustained by the generosity of members of the Morrill, Box Butte and Scottsbluff County Farm Bureau Chapters who donated $3,000 worth of hay. The more than 12 ton of first cutting alfalfa was grown by Dan Carnine of Angora, NE.

One of the hay donors, Morrill County Farm Bureau member Jeff Metz, said, “We are appalled at the whole situation. What has happened is not the way the farming/ranching community operates, and is totally unacceptable.” He added the Farm Bureau members are prepared to provide still more hay if the horses have to remain at the fairgrounds long enough to use up what they have.

Of the 220 animals at the Fairgrounds, 22 have been identified by their owners and will be returned to them. HfH president Finch and Jill Star of Lifesavers Foundation are seeking relocation sites with individuals and horse sanctuaries throughout the country for the remaining horses, hoping when they’re fit for transportation they can be moved to new homes.

Relocation is being approached with caution to prevent spread of any diseases the bunch could carry, a concern that was raised by Wild Horse Foundation founder Ray Fields. He believes some of the 3-Strikes Ranch herd may have come from a Nevada facility where some horses died from contagious salmonella. The horses at the fairgrounds continue to be monitored by vets, who are also following up any horses returned to their homes.

Christine Griffith, an owner who took three rescued horses home, placed an April 30th posting at http://www.gentledmustangs.com/ stating, “I want the public to know that, in fact, one of my horses came home with an illness from 3-Strikes Ranch.” She has continued to have her horse, Dr. Bill, monitored and administered to by her vet, and he seems to be recovering.

Ms. Griffith’s ongoing postings prove the diligence being exerted to monitor for any possible illnesses. On May 2 she reported: “I got a call from Dr. Tom Furman, Alliance, Nebraska. He was the vet on site at the rodeo grounds where the other horses were taken. He is concerned about Dr. Bill’s health and will be consulting with our vet so they can follow Dr. Bill’s illness, but also if any of the other horses from 3-Strikes become ill.”

Her May 4 posting reported further testing on Dr. Bill and the note that, “Dr. Furman called my vet today for an update too.”

Any of the rescued horses proven to be well and not carrying any disease, are available for adoption; in fact 14 had already been taken by midweek. One news report says people wanting to adopt “should contact Hillary Wood of Front Range Equine Rescue at 719-481-1490. The horses have all received a negative Coggins, have been dewormed, vaccinated and microchipped. Finch strongly cautions that they are looking for those with experience in handling and training wild mustangs, warning, ‘These are not back yard ponies.'” A dedicated website providing photos and descriptions of available animals, as well as forms and contact numbers has been set up at http://nebraska200.horsereunions.com.

The aforementioned John Furman, shares a practice with his father Jim Furman, a working veterinarian for three decades, at Alliance. They’ve both been attending the 3-Strikes survivors. Jim told reporters he had “never seen anything like” the 3-Strikes case. He said, “I’ve seen horses get old and owners have difficulty putting them down…” explaining that the dead horses found at 3-Strikes Ranch weren’t old, maybe only 15 or 16. Furman said he doesn’t believe anyone will ever be able to give an exact number of the horses that have died, and reported the old horses which were rescued are “unidentifiable” due to the effects of starvation. He expects rehabilitating the horses will “be quite a process.”

Furman explained a standardized method of rating horse condition, called a Henneke scale, which goes from 1 (totally emaciated) to 9, which he terms ‘fat.’ Horses in normal condition would rate round 5, but “Horses recovered from the ranch are ranging in a 1 to a 4 on the scale,” he reported.