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Officers Investigate Horse Neglect in Nuevo

September 21, 2017

County Impounds 14 Underweight Horses

Riverside County Animal Services investigated a report of horse neglect at a Nuevo ranch property Wednesday (Sept. 20).

Sgt. Lesley Huennekens served the owner a search warrant and, shortly after the investigation started, the owner relinquished ownership of all 14 underweight horses.

The 11-acre property between Apricot Avenue and 12th Street is a familiar location for Sgt. Huennekens and her colleagues. She and a team of officers impounded 23 horses in March 2016 after a tip was made to Animal Services about underweight horses. That operation resulted in an animal cruelty charge filed with the District Attorney’s office.

Mr. Joseph Guy Vachon faces one count of felony animal cruelty in that March 2016 activity. One horse was in such poor condition, Sgt. Huennekens said she believed the horse was already dead. It wasn’t, and she humanely euthanized the mare. The case is pending in Riverside County Superior Court.

The horses relinquished on Wednesday were most of the ones that were at the property during the March investigation. However, those horses – mostly stallions – were in much better condition than the other 23 seized by officers last year. Unfortunately, it appears the owner failed to care for these horses properly too, Sgt. Huennekens said.

“Last year, Mr. Vachon was somewhat combative and uncooperative,” Sgt. Huennekens said. “But on Wednesday he appeared to want to do what was right for the animals.”

Field Services Division Commander Chris Mayer assisted his team members during the investigation on Wednesday. The horses were transported to two county shelter locations: the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus in San Jacinto and the Western Riverside County/City Animal Shelter in Jurupa Valley.

Volunteer members of REARS, a large-animal rescue team unit, assisted the officers with transportation. REARS is an acronym for Riverside Emergency Animal Rescue System. Although the majority of the horses were resistant to being trailered, the officers eventually finished the task without injury to officers, nor the horses. But the operation sucked away several hours to safely trailer each horse – and that made it for a long day for the volunteers.

“This operation went smoothly, thanks to our skilled officers familiar with working around horses,” Mayer said. “And we really need to express our gratitude for the REARS volunteers. They came out early, were very patient as we led each horse into a trailer, then provided a major assist with the transportation of each horse to the respective shelter location. They were a huge help.”

Next up for Animal Services is finding new homes for the horses. Employees will reach out to various equine rescue groups and all horses are immediately available for adoption. Would-be adopters should be very experienced horse owners.