County Animal Services investigating care of horses at Rancho Santa Fe-area property

Complaints in March prompted the probe, and last week an elderly horse stuck in mud died before it could be euthanized, the county said


County animal control officers are investigating complaints about the care of several horses at a Rancho Santa Fe-area property, and one horse died before it could be humanely put down, county officials said.

The initial complaint about the care of horses at a ranch on Artesian Road west of Camino Del Sur came in on March 17, the county said.

On March 30, someone called the Department of Animal Services regarding a horse in distress at the site. An agency officer went to the ranch and found an elderly horse down and trapped in mud.

The agency contacted the horse’s owner and veterinarian, and they “responded quickly to provide humane euthanasia,” the agency said. The horse died before they could euthanize it.

A county spokesperson said there are other horses on the large property, and the owner’s private veterinarian indicated that they are at the property several days a week to attend to the animals.

The county issued a statement last week that Animal Services was “actively investigating complaints made about animals” at the site, and that officers had gone to the property Saturday, April 1, accompanied by sheriff’s deputies “to ensure an orderly site visit.”

As of Monday, April 3, the agency officers had not been granted full access to all the animals on the property but a veterinarian with the county had spoken with the owner’s private veterinarian.

No animals had been removed from the property as of Monday, April 3,and no updates were available from the county as of Wednesday, April 5.

According to various news reports, between 40 and 50 horses allegedly had been receiving substandard care at the ranch.

On Friday, CBS8 reported that one of the ranch owners pointed a gun at a photojournalist from the news station who was just outside the property. At the ranch, they found one horse with “a large gash on its leg,” and several were “limping, (and) many looked emaciated with ribs, hips and their spine(s) showing,” the reporter said.

NBC 7 reported Monday, April 3, that there had been additional reports of a man brandishing a gun at the property.

City News Service contributed to this report.