Lincoln horse removal deemed appropriate
The removal of seven horses from a property in Lincoln March 2 was appropriate given the condition of the animals, an administrative hearing officer decided Monday.
Jo McCormack heard testimony from Rosemary Frieborn and Curt Ransom, humane officers with the Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills, as well as from Robert “Bob” Trocha, the owner of the animals. The hearing was not about a criminal matter; rather, it was only to determine whether the removal of the horses was justified.
The case began Feb. 14, when the Humane Society received a complaint about two thin horses on the 8600 block of North Forbes Road. Frieborn and Ransom drove by to view the horses, which were in a pasture, and posted a notice asking for contact. They returned Feb. 21 and attempted contact, leaving a recommendation sheet asking the owner to call them. Trocha contacted the Humane Society on Feb. 22, and the following day the officers visited the property.
Frieborn said after looking at several horses, they gave Trocha until March 1 to get several items taken care of, including obtaining veterinary care for the horses. When Frieborn contacted Placer County Animal Services to inquire about Trocha, she said, she learned that he had a file dating back to 2002 that contained complaints about the horses on his property.
“At that point, Officer Ransom and I felt that we had sufficient probable cause to obtain a search warrant,” Frieborn said. “This wasn’t an education issue, this was an ongoing problem, and we needed to step up our enforcement.”
The warrant was obtained, and on March 2 Frieborn and Ransom, along with veterinarian Samia Macon, removed seven horses from the property. Macon’s position, Frieborn said, was that the seven horses taken were in improper enclosures, had hoof problems and were thin. Lab work showed that many of the horses had parasites, and all needed dental care, Frieborn added.
Trocha admitted that the horses weren’t in top-notch condition, but said he was not abusing them. In making her determination, McCormack pointed out that the veterinarian’s report said some of the horses were not just thin, but emaciated.
“Financially, things have been difficult, so feeding the animals, when the price of hay has gone up four times as much at it was last year – it was hard to feed them,” Trocha said.
Trocha, who works as a farrier, hay deliverer and personal trainer, said his horses started losing weight in December because the hay he was using didn’t have the right protein levels to keep the animals warm. While he admitted that funds were low due to a slowdown in work, and that he had cut back on their feeding in recent weeks, he said when he got his tax return he immediately bought hay for his horses, along with supplemental feed pellets for two horses in particular.
The reason he has so many horses, Trocha said, is because he is a former trainer who used to give riding lessons. He also had hopes to breed horses, but hasn’t done that due to the lagging economy. He pointed out that he hasn’t added horses to his herd in several years, knowing they would be extra mouths that would be expensive to feed.
He also responded to the report that his animals had been standing in deep mud, pointing out that on the day the horses were seized it had been raining hard for two days, and that in the photos taken of his horses, their legs are not covered in mud. On his 15 acres of property, Trocha said, his horses have plenty of room to roam, and the officers had seen several of them standing in a pasture, visible from the roadside. One of those horses, Che Che, has a 40-by-100-foot area of open, flat ground, Trocha said.
“If I had something to hide, if I was doing something that was purposefully done wrong, I would have tried to hide it and not had her out by the road where everyone can see her,” he said.
Che Che, a Peruvian paso with a bad hip, was discussed in length at the hearing. At 36 years old and in deteriorating health, it’s time for her to be put down, Trocha said, but the cost – up to $600 for euthanasia and disposal – was prohibitive, along with his family’s emotional attachment to the horse. Trocha said he asked the Humane Society officers for assistance, but was told it was his responsibility.
None of the horses taken were sick or had runny noses, Trocha said, and none had open wounds.
“I don’t believe that you need to see open wounds for an animal to be experiencing pain somewhere else,” Frieborn responded.
After the officers’ first face-to-face visit, Trocha said, he called veterinarian Gary Stangeland and discussed what he needed to do to get the horses better. They made plans for mid-March, Trocha said, to get the horses their springtime vaccinations and assess what they needed medically. Trocha said he contacted Animal Control to let them know what he had planned, but found out the warrant had already been obtained.
Costs rack up for owner
Now that McCormack has deemed the seizure appropriate, Trocha must pay $3,260 for the horses’ removal, medical care and board. If he doesn’t sign them over by March 16, that total will be up to $6,973 to cover the additional medical care. After that, board will cost $450 per month, per horse. Those numbers, Trocha said, make it pretty obvious that he won’t be seeing those horses again. The $3,260 alone, he said, could have bought hay for his entire herd for the summer.
“I have 11 horses at home that are going to suffer because they took those animals,” he said.
Stangeland said that while he has not seen any of the horses yet, he will keep his March 13 appointment to visit Trocha and assess the conditions of the remaining horses. If they are suffering from malnutrition, he’ll adjust their diets so they get the proper caloric intake. He’ll also make sure they’re on schedule for regular worming, which Trocha said they are.
Throughout the hearing, Trocha maintained that he cares deeply for his animals, and that he felt the Humane Society could have communicated better with him and maybe worked with him to find people to take the horses, or helped with putting the older ones down.
“Nobody is saying that you abused these animals or hurt these animals, or didn’t love these animals,” McCormack said. “But they were not getting the appropriate care and shelter that they needed.”
For more information about the Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills, visit www.animalplace.com.
Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at firstname.lastname@example.org.