San Diego County Animal Services reported on Thursday that it seized 10 horses, including two foals, from the Ramona, California, property on State Route 78 formerly rented by Lori Patton. .Patton’s advertises on a website and YouTube that she breeds and sells Friesian sport horses. A neighbor told KUSI News on Monday that Patton was not providing care and “was starving” her horses. The neighbor said Patton had been evicted from the property.
Fire Chief Jeremy Christofferson of the Intermountain Fire and Rescue Department states that he first saw two of Patton’s horses on the highway on Monday and then realized there were more of them loose in the surrounding area. The firefighters who arrived in response to his call for help found a total of 30 horses—most of them out of their corrals.
Chief Christofferson told the Ramona Sentinel that California Highway Patrol officers and a member of San Diego Department of Animal Services corralled the loose horses. “They were completely bone-dry, no water,” said Christofferson. Although there were corrals, he said, it looked like the horses knocked the sides down. The fire department delivered water for the horses. A CHP officer checked the house on the property and said it was cleared out, the Sentinel reported.
Deputy Director Dan DeSousa said on Monday that the Department has been investigating reports about neglect of horses on this property by Patton since 2007 and all have been resolved. He added that at this time the horses are “not in immediate danger… and cannot be seized.” He stated to KUSI that two of the horses were “slightly ribby.”
However, on Thursday, San Diego Animal Services Director Dawn Danielson issued a statement that "Prompt action was necessary to ensure the health and welfare of those horses.”
“She’s not feeding them. They have no care—no veterinary care…She’s starving them,” a neighbor, identified only as “Kathy” had told the KUSI reporter who went to the property to investigate the complaints the station received. The neighbor said the food on the property was brought over by local residents and one bucket of water was provided. “They are all drinking from that one bucket,” said Kathy. The camera showed dry containers on the property.
When Lori Patton arrived at the property that day, she angrily approached the KUSI reporter and the neighbor and screamed, “Get the f… out! Get out, get out!” She is seen physically pushing the reporter. The neighbor has reportedly filed assault charges against Patton, the station later announced.
According to Deputy Director Harold Holmes, Patton disclosed that a horse had recently died and she had a service remove the body. Holmes stated that the Department of Animal Services is investigating the death.
Holmes states the decision to seize the ten horses was made when animal control officers went back to the property on Thursday to check on their welfare and found that only 10 of the 30 reported on Monday were still on the property. “The owner had already moved the rest of the horses to a new location,” Holmes said. "Based on what the animal control officers observed that day, they felt that impounding the animals was warranted. Not all issues had been sufficiently resolved by the owner,” he said.
Before the officers left, Patton returned to the property and the San Diego County animal control officers gave her a Notice of Impoundment, Holmes added.
The Department discovered that Patton had moved the other horses to a different location in Ramona. Holmes said on Friday that an animal control officer met with Patton at the new location, but “the officer did not see anything of an egregious nature to justify a seizure.”
Deputy Director Holmes said that details of the case cannot be disclosed because of the ongoing investigation. He told OpposingViews.com that this situation is an example of the frustration that is often felt by both animal control agencies and members of the public who have concerns about the care of animals. “Observation alone may not disclose whether legal minimum care standards are being met and a slow process of fact-gathering must be completed in an objective manner, so that the District Attorney can determine whether charges should be filed.”
In the meantime, he assured that the Department of Animal Services will be making sure these horses receive proper care. “We will be working very closely with Ms. Patton--and very frequently,” he said.