Gates, TN Rescued Horses

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By Nancy Brannon

On July 31, 2014 six starving horses, described as “living skeletons,” were rescued from a farm in Gates, TN and the owner, James Mark Crook, was charged with six counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. Ironically, Crook is an investigator with the Ripley Police Dept. The horses were seized and forfeited after District Attorney Mike Dunnavant’s office completed its investigation. “It was important that we were thorough and diligent in our review of the evidence, so that we appropriately applied the law to the unique facts and circumstances of the case,” Dunavant said. Crook is set to appear in court Friday, September 26, 2014. 

“The defendant has been charged under the applicable Tennessee law with 6 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty, for knowingly and unreasonably failing to provide necessary food, water, care, and shelter of horses in his custody. The Lauderdale County General Sessions Judge has recused herself from the case, and Crockett County General Sessions Judge Paul Conley has been appointed as a Special Judge in the matter. Judge Conley set a bond amount of $3,000.00, and ordered as a further bond condition that the defendant have no contact with the subject animals or any other animals during the pendency of the case. The Court has set the case on the Lauderdale County General Sessions docket for Friday, September 26, 2014,” a press release from the District Attorney said.

Dr. Jennifer Dunlap, an Equine Veterinary Specialist of Fayette County, and the American Humane Association Red Start Animal Emergency Services Team helped remove the horses from the property. “We were horrified when we saw these animals,” said Justin L. Scally, National Director of Humane Intervention & Emergency Services for American Humane Association. “Some of these animals were literally at death’s door – mere living, breathing skeletons when we arrived and we hope we can save as many of them as we can. With the help of our good friend and veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Dunlap, we will work vigorously – around the clock – to nurse these animals back to health. Their conditions are critical.”

The six horses were initially evaluated by Veterinarian Leslie Young, who was called in by the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department after Gates citizens and animal activists reported the starving horses for weeks. Dr. Young assessed body scores between 1.5 and 4.5.

Two horses are Tennessee Walking Horses, Sally and Trigger; two are ponies, Scooter and Cash; and two are minis, Katie and Clarabelle.

Dr. Dunlap described Scooter as having a “less than #1 body score” on the Henneke horse body condition scoring system. “He was down on the ground, near death” when rescuers arrived. “The other pony, Cash, was about a #2,” she said. “The minis were in the best shape of the lot, but still at about #2 ½. If minis get too thin, they can get fatty liver syndrome which kills them. Clarabelle’s left lung had collapsed and was congested because she had been down for an extended period of time. She was too weak to stand.”

End of August update

Sally is a four year old TWH mare. “She has gained 150 pounds since her rescue on July 31st and we are really pleased with her progress!” said veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Dunlap.

Scooter is the oldest in the group pulled from Gates, Tennessee. “He was in extremely critical shape on scene and required immediate oxygen and IV fluid therapy to stabilize him. He was carefully lifted and placed in a trailer, where he collapsed, and then was placed on a padded glide to get him into the emergency shelter and placed in the Anderson sling. He required continuous oxygen therapy, numerous blood transfusions and IV fluid therapy,” explained Dr. Dunlap.  “He is slowly but steadily improving and has gained about 75 pounds [since rescued]; he now gets to spend about 6 hours a day out of his sling.”

Trigger is a three year old TWH. He required IV fluids on scene and a blood transfusion once he was stable at the emergency shelter. He has had to be very carefully managed due to issues with re-feeding syndrome, but is on the upswing now, Dr. Dunlap reported.

In the three to three to four weeks since their rescue, the horses, under intense medical care, have shown improvement. Cash and Katie are now at Horse Haven of Tennessee to be adopted. Clarabelle is in foster care, recovering from pneumonia. Trigger, Sally, and Scooter are at a rehabilitation facility receiving around the clock care.
It only takes one owner to starve a horse, but it takes a whole community of volunteers, concerned horse people, and professional veterinary care to save a horse from death and bring back to health. “Managing these guys with body condition scores of 1out of 9 is an art and a science” said Dr. Dunlap. If you would like to provide hay, feed, and/or monetary donations to help these horses, donations can be made at The Stockyard Nursery and Feed Store, 10996 Hwy. 70 in Arlington. TN38002. Phone number: 901-867-8733. All greatly appreciate Kim taking on this task and coordinating the donations, as well as making donations herself.

Additional information

Other sources of information about this case may interest readers. My Fox Memphis has an article about the condition of the horses and the rescue: Scroll through the photos and the last three show facebook page posts, one from J.D. Dupree, Director of Lauderdale County Extension Office, posting on July 14 on the UT-TSU Extension-Lauderdale County page. Others are responses countering Dupree’s post.

Read about these rescued horses on Redemption Road Rescue facebook at: Their July 27, 2014 post clarifies that the property owner is not the owner of the starving Gates, TN horses and there are photos of the horses rescued. “Today, after a barrage of calls from people in Gates, Tn. (Lauderdale County) regarding several starving horses, RRR went to the property to check on the situation. We were told ‘to go back to Madison County, you have no business here’ by one government official. Following a visit from a veterinarian who ruled the horses’ condition was bad enough to warrant an emergency seizure, Gates City Chief of Police, Sam Parker, refused to allow the seizure and also refused to file any charges against the horses’ owner. As it turns out, the owner is an Investigator for the Ripley Police Department,” read the Redemption Road Rescue facebook post on July 27, 2014.”
J.D. Dupree, , posted this information on the TSU Extension-Lauderdale County facebook: “I was contacted on the morning of July 14 about horses in Gates, TN. Mr. Buddy Smith, who works at Lauderdale County Animal Shelter, was contacted as well. We both visited the premises on Monday July 14 and found six horses on site. Three of the animals were in poor condition and three of the animals were not. On that day quality hay was present, water was available and shelter was on site. I met with the owner on Friday, July 18 and he was given the following conditions. Keep quality hay on the property, call a veterinarian, and you have ten days to find suitable location for all six animals. If these conditions were not met, myself [sic] along with Sheriff’s Dept. officials would be there on July 29 to remove all animals and take to desired locations in the county for animals to be taken care of by designated individuals. Owner did find a suitable location for animals and has followed all request [sic] by agent.”

But according to posts by others on the TSU-Extension-Lauderdale County facebook pages, people in the area had watched, and complained, for months about the horses being starved. One post said: “This isn’t just a weekend of starvation; this has been going on for a long time.”

Another facebook post said that “multiple officers and Redemption Road Rescue were on the scene Friday (July 25) – there was no hay until they stated they were on their way; then someone put out some low quality hay. The ACO (animal control officer) screamed at these rescue ladies so badly he was told by the landowner to get off his property or he would have him arrested for trespassing. The officers called you [referring to Dupree] and you refused to allow the horse rescue to take temporary custody. The chief of police told the horse rescuers that he would allow them to take them if you [referring to Dupree] ok’ed it, but you would not. You stated that you would have Dr. English come out Monday. Then the horses were quietly moved.” (source of facebook posts information:
No doubt, horse lovers have difficulty understanding how an owner can leave his horses without sufficient food and water and allow them to starve to death. In addition, questions and disappointment remain about the lack of action on the part of government officials on behalf of the horses.

If you suspect abuse or neglect of horses, the first thing to do is call your local law enforcement. Responsible parties vary from county to county; it may be the Sheriff’s Dept., Animal Control, or the Police Dept. Find out the responsible party in your county and call to report the problem. It is important not to give up. If you get no response or see no action, continue calling for action. Horses’ lives may depend on it.

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