I have always stated that I am pretty much an equal opportunity offender and would not hesitate to out ANYBODY that was mistreating or abusing horses regardless of their slaughter stance. You can cry `anti’ all you want, but if you are a part of the problem, you’re as big or bigger of an asshole than any pro. Probably bigger. So, sadly, we have an anti to spank today. Although, I had lots of other things to cover, they will have to wait as I think this is more important. I’m also not feeling all that much like laughing after seeing this mess, so we’ll talk about Suey’s radio show and D-bag discussing penis size another time. Perhaps it would be a good idea to wear protective head-gear in reading this blog today. I know I’ve been banging my head on the desk a lot after finding out about this mess.
The Starlight Sanctuary is a 501c3 rescue operating out of Nevada. They regularly pull horses from the Fallon sale yard that would normally be bound for slaughter. Starlight, is run by a woman named Laura Bell and they have a super awesome website and everything. (http://www.thestarlightsanctuary.org/index.html). The website features pictures of healthy, happy horses and even lists the numerous credentials of Ms. Bell. There is lots of information on the site about the slaughter issue and if only going by the website, a person would think this is an ok rescue. Well, you know what they say about being anything you want on the internet…The photo I posted above is of a horse that is currently at Starlight. Sadly, the top picture is the `before’. Apparently, Starlight Sanctuary started out ok about a year go and Ms. Bell was generally respected as a knowledgeable horse person. In other words, she talked a good game. I have to confess they weren’t really on my radar prior to this issue hitting my inbox, so I can’t say where it all went so horribly wrong. What we seem to be looking at right now is a case of hoarding and animals are suffering terribly according to several eye-witness accounts and videos taken in the past few weeks. Reports of up to 60 horses with at least 20 emaciated, all living in filthy pens with inadequate feed and water available to are coming in by former volunteers and eye witnesses. If all this seems more than a little reminiscent of Dorothy Robertson, it’s because it appears to be exactly the very same issue going on here even though the motivations behind it are vastly different. Ms. Bell, checks all the boxes for hoarding. Way more horses than she can physically or financially care for and outright denials and refusal to acknowledge the animals in her care are suffering. Now that she’s flat busted, along come the excuses and denials. I read a series of text messages that were posted on a Facebook page by somebody from another rescue that tried to offer her help as recently as a week ago. Here is the exchange with my own comments in red:
Laura, I sent you a message on fb. Please let me help you. We both know what I saw today isn’t ok. I can help you. Let’s figure this out together. You’re a good person and I know you want better for your horses.
– What did you see, XXXXX?
That your heart is huge and you needs some help.
You know that XXXX would shit if I take him there. I am taking him to my place for now, but we gotta get you some help with feet, weight gain etc. you bust your ass every day helping others. Let me help you please. You know I’m a career aco. I can’t turn a blind eye so let’s just fix this please. I will help you place whoever is adoptable or who you think would do best in socal so you can focus on sanctuary horses.
XXXXX? I have receipts to prove how much hay I feed on a daily basis? and also how much I spend on dewormers, lice spray, rice bran, and sweet mix etc. I also have to trim feet myself because it is nearly impossible to get shoers out to Silver Springs. and I guess I thought you knew what kind of horses we take in, but apparently not. so, before i start to get ticked of being accused of neglect? maybe you can call so we can discuss this.
I KNOW how hard you work and how much you love these animals. I know you spend every extra dime on them. But eyes are on you right now with all of this auction crap. I don’t want starlight to get slandered in the mix. We gotta dot your i’s and dot your t’s right now. Perception is powerful. People will talk of I send this horse to XXXX. This is beyond colic and lice. She will freak.
Let me ask you do you think i wasn’t feeding him? because i can assure you i was. and apparently, XXXXX, you, just like me, before the past 5 horrible months have never seen a severe bot and lice infestation. So, perhaps you should just turn me in and I will have whomever speak with my vet and they will explain the kind of nightmare I have been living through for the past 5 months trying to get this crap under control. I have the receipts to prove what has been spent trying to get the horses well, so I don’t know what to say other than it just makes me want to put all the horses that are old, skinny, have issues etc, down rather than just let them live their lives until THEY tell me they are done.
5 months worth of lice and bot infestation? Perhaps somebody needs to take a closer look at the dewormers they are using and maybe quarantine new arrivals?
I understand the bot and lice issue. I had several Shasta horses at my ranch with bot/lice. That still doesn’t explain the babies emaciation or the grossly over grown hooves. The extreme dreadlocks and mats in their manes and tails. Titan, the pony, maple, guinness, raja and Sultan are all visably thinner than when at the lot. Your herd lacked even the most basic husbandry. They had excessive feces, little to no water, fly allergies, unkempt hair, grossly overgrown feet, weight issues, runny eyes, snotty noses, etc. I have almost 40 head at my place. They are all groomed, bright eyed, and alert and in clean pens with trimmed feet and fresh water. I take in bottom of the barrel horses too. The difference is my horses improve at my ranch. Yours are visibly declining.
XXXXX, i just brought sultan and raja in 4 days ago, and quite frankly, they are not thin. Neither is atlas, izzy (that is not Maple) and she just came back from another location and I haven’t trimmed her feet yet. And the black filly has severe issues from the bots and lice and is actually looking better than she was 3 weeks ago. And I REFUSE to talk about dreadlocks because in your world apparentely horses with dreadlocks and tangled manes are neglected…..that is plain silliness XXXX, and i guess if you think atlas and the others are thin we are not going to agree on this…and I don’t even know what to say to you on raja and sultan seeing as Ive only had them 4 days.
Dorothy Robertson blamed her elf boots on horses on them being in another location too. If you are responsible for those horses, you are responsible no matter where you have them stashed. Period.
XXXXX? we ALL LEAVE MANURE DOWN WHERE WE LIVE BECAUSE OF THE HORSES INGESTING SAND WHEN THE HAY BLOWS IT AROUND. Sorry but the things you think are life and death are not? and we do not live in places out in the desert like I guess you are used to. Youve crossed over to insulting when you act like a horse with a runny eye would rather be dead than have a runny eye that ONE APPLICATION of eye ointment will clear up. Are you really this dainty and anal, or simply passing judgement on how many people and horses live in the desert.
This is the first time I have ever heard of leaving horses to stand in filth as a means to prevent sand colic. To think of all the money I could have saved on Sand Clear over the years! As for the runny eye…GIVE THE DAMN HORSE THE OINTMENT IF ONLY ONE APPLICATION WILL FIX IT!!!!! WTF?
What is insulting Laura, is that you know I am a 13 year animal control officer, a former vet tech, horse owner and a rescue who has defended you for a year and you’re going to try and convince me that the conditions of your `sanctuary’ are humane. I’ve built cases, seized animals and sent people to jail for less than I what I found at your house.
First, isn’t that horse chestnut? Because I do have Peaches that came to the feedlot that way and i’m in no big hurry to brush her tail out because i simply DO NOT CARE ABOUT MATTED, TANGLED, DREADLOCKED MANES AND TAILS on any horse because it is NOT a big deal to the horse certainly and also is not a concern or big deal to me either. this is not the pretty pony farm XXXX where horses come to be groomed every day and pampered. they live with or next to other horses until I put them in a herd and then they hang out with other horses. In my world, there are not much in the way of expectations for horses that went through kill sales on were on their way to slaughter because no one wanted them. So quite frankly? I might come to your place and see horses you were driving crazy and just wanted to be spoiled a little and then put back with other horses….the difference here is that i would never insult you even if i didn’t like what you were doing.
While tangled manes and tails is probably not a basis for intervention, it would make the horses a bit more comfortable and time spent grooming does give you a chance to look over the animals for issues such as bot and lice infestations, no? The fact that she thinks that because these horses were saved from slaughter means they don’t deserve the same standard of care as any other horse caused me to concuss myself.
I’m going to XXXX, XXXXX and XXXXX with photos. For the horses sake, the hearts of your followers and your team….I hope you can find a way to improve the lives of those animals. You know as well as I do you’re in over your head.
XXXX, I really don’t think tangled tails, dreadlocked manes and long front hooves that a 10 minute trim is going to fix, and a goober in the eye is going to impress animal control out here very much. And when they see 6500 hundred dollars of receipts for hay alone in per month, 800 dollars worth of dewormers in 3 months, receipts for medicated shampoo, lice spray, rice bran, sweet feed, and teeth floating, they will acknowledge that I have rescue horses that I am trying to take care of, but will NOT spend a fortune on and will put them down if necessary. I got in over my head when I realized 5 months ago that there was something really wrong with many of the horses and it is bots and lice like I have never dealt with before, we are simply never going to see eye to eye over matted manes, dreadlocks, some over grown feet that are NOT life and death and take minutes to fix when I finally get a farrier out to trim the easy horses they all like to work on and i simply cannot and will not get stressed about a runny eye on a horse and some damn flies that aren’t bad comparitively to other places around me with fewer horses. And about the manure? THAT is staying down because dealing with a sand impaction or a gut irritation that wears a hole through the horses intestine or bowel is deadly.
So, here is the plan now that I am out from under the feedlot rescues….we are going to be spending all of our money on our own horses, we are getting 6 to 7 into good homes, and we are not bringing in any more…..so I do appreciate your concerns on some things XXXX, but really won’t ever worry about tangled manes and such. thank you for caring and we will be going forward taking care of only our own.
There really is no helping somebody in such deep denial. She seems to be mostly offended about the commentary on her lack of grooming than willing to address that her horses are in worse shape than when they were rescued. If it will only take `minutes’ to fix up the overgrown hooves, then get off your ass and fix them rather than wasting the time online justifying why you haven’t done it yet. FUCK. Don’t believe me? Have a gander at these pics of before and after of some of the horses she currently has on her property.
As I mentioned, this person is 100% anti slaughter. I hesitate to call her one of our own as I no more consider somebody that does something like this for any reason, let alone in the name of rescue, as one of our own any more than I consider the radical activists that live outside the law in the name of animal rights to represent the vast majority of antis. This is the lunatic fringe. From what I can gather, Ms. Bell has her `own’ horses and then there are the rescues. It would seem the rescues do not get the same level of care because they should just be happy they didn’t go to slaughter. I guess that’s about like having a foster child that you do the bare minimum for while spoiling your own children and they should be fine with that since they came from a bad situation. Just because she is hoarding horses to prevent them from going to slaughter does not give her a pass. This is a mental illness and these horses are no better off than the emaciated wrecks Dorothy Robertson hoarded because people didn’t want to pay her enough for them. Ironically, they seem to live in close proximity to each other making Fallon, Nevada the horse neglect capitol of the U.S. right now. It’s all sick and it’s all criminal. HiCaliber Rescue out of California at first attempted to offer Laura Bell discreet assistance and was rebuffed. They are now in intervention mode. They have a Facebook page and I would suggest looking at it for the full back story and efforts to help Starlight. There are also many pictures and videos of the current conditions at Starlight. It’s not good. From what I gather, it was a horse called `Guinness’ that brought the plight of the Starlight horses to HiCaliber’s attention. It would appear that Guinness was already bought and paid for by an adopter but was held back for whatever reason. He is now removed and being rehabbed at HiCaliber, but here are his before and afters as well.
Aside from the texts above, Laura Bell has come forward with justifications for her neglect in recent days. She has even gone so far as to create fake Facebook accounts to `support’ herself in public. Here it is, straight from the hoarder’s fingers (my comments in red):
Thank you to all who have been defending me behind the scenes because you’re too afraid of the witch hunt people…….at least some people realize that if there are only two choices, and one is that I take in a horse that no one else wants, not even the other rescues, I feed it plenty of hay, but no special food because I don’t have time for that, and the horse gets to hang out with other horses, they eat, they drink, they sleep, and when it’s their time to go, they are humanely euthanized by a vet, and the other choice is that the person is going to simply take their older, or horse with issues, that’s not ride-able to the Fallon kill sale where they’ll sell by the pound, or to the feedlot where they will be bought by the pound and will then ship to slaughter…..life and death, that simple, so I am not interested in tangled manes, some long hooves, a skinny old horse that has been dewormed and had their teeth done, etc…….they are hanging out like horses do, they eat and drink, they play and fight with their herd mates or over the fence, and they are put down peacefully……THAT in my book will ALWAYS be better than being trucked a 1000 miles or more to a commercial slaughterhouse where they are killed horribly.
– So she is taking in rescues but giving them `no special food’ because she doesn’t have time for that? What the actual fuck?????? At least it explains why some horses are in satisfactory body condition while others are basically dead on their feet. Rescue or not, you have a responsibility to keep a horse at maintenance, whatever that takes, or don’t have the horse. Period. As far as long feet being no big deal, let’s let this nutjob grow her toenails out until they are curling under her feet and force her to walk around on them. You have saved them from slaughter and damned them to another kind of hell. Congrats.
Now I am hearing some gossipy bullshit that I’m “going to put all the horses down” which is just plain ignorant……but since I’m starting to think many of you have lost your minds and are stirring the pot so hard your arms are worn out, here’s the deal:
– Y’all read the texts that she, herself, sent stating that she should just put them all down. “so I don’t know what to say other than it just makes me want to put all the horses that are old, skinny, have issues etc, down rather than just let them live their lives until THEY tell me they are done.”
I feel I only have one horse that needs to be put down soon, and that is the Wobblers Syndrome horse that I bought from the kill sale 1 1/2 years ago. His brain is almost totally disconnected from his hind end and he is dangerous to be around and is dangerous to himself if he falls into something or falls down.
– So, she has let the Wobbler stagger around for a year and a half? If he is that bad, why isn’t he already put to sleep?
My little dwarf baby who is deformed may have to be euthanized if we have a bad freezing winter, but I would prefer to make that decision as we approach winter.
– Laura Bell does not like to post pics of horses in bad shape, so I have no idea of what the `dwarf baby’ is or what shape the poor thing is in. I’m not sure I want to know.
Otherwise, I really DON’T WANT to euthanize any horses besides my poor Wobbler kid who has gone downhill fast in the past 3-4 weeks.
– Anybody else wondering how much worse this horse needs to get before she does the right thing? There is no cure for Wobblers.
So please ladies and gentlemen, stop with the rumor mill and gossip, stop with putting words in my mouth I never spoke, understand that whether I’ve had a horse that is like my daughter for 18 years since she was born of a captive wild horse mare, or I just got them in and am offer them comfort, food, water, companionship, kindness and love until its there time to have a dignified death, I DO NOT WANT to euthanize anyone but have to see what animal control says when they get here.
– Well speaking and texting is basically the same thing, no? There is nothing comforting about the conditions I have seen in pictures and in video of the situation. Horses at rescues or sanctuaries are supposed to IMPROVE over time, not deteriorate and suffer.
Even though all this is scandalous enough, I wanted to find out a bit more about Starlight Sanctuary prior to the scandal. Since they haven’t been `official’ for even a full year, there isn’t a lot to go on other than their own Facebook pages and websites. Lots of different horses’ names are being tossed around as former supporters come forward. It would appear that rather than a rescue, Starlight was a great big scam and front for hoarding. First off, they were proudly in cahoots with a kill buyer. That in itself doesn’t mean you should write off a rescue as a I know of many good and legitimate rescues that maintain friendly relations with KBs, if only because it gives them access to horses they might otherwise have missed rescuing. I’m not talking about brokering horses either. I’m talking about a KB having a skinny old horse of a certain breed or something he knows won’t be lucrative to sell to slaughter and he will call a rescue and ask if they want it. Often the horse will exchange hands for the same or similar price that the KB purchased it for in these cases. So, Starlight makes mention of their `friendly’ relationship with the Fallon feedlot, but where it comes off the rails for me, is when they have a price list associated. Rather than just bail from the feedlot, they give their supports the chance to PAY the feedlot for such services such as:
- Rides under saddle (in the arena or outside) $20/ride
- Halter-breaking (cost varies depending on horse)
- Farrier $40/all-around trim and shoeing beings at $90 but will be quoted by horse
- Pregnancy test $50
They also state you can continue to board your horse at the feedlot after purchase, because that isn’t high risk or anything. The feedlot horses are different from the sanctuary horses apparently. It’s mind-boggling to attempt to sift through it all and figure out exactly WTF she was doing and where the money was going. As you all know, any money you put the hands of a kill buyer will promptly be spent sending even more horses to slaughter that will never have a chance to be rescued. There is a reason that so many feedlot horses are underweight or sickly. They would be rejected for slaughter anyhow.
It would seem that Laura Bell holds herself apart from other rescues and considers herself the last stop before slaughter. I’m not really sure what she thinks other rescues do, but she is clear to say that while she used to be a professional broker, she is no longer one. Ok, fine, but from what I can gather, she was charging broker prices and there are tales out there of horses being misrepresented just like every other broker program we’ve heard about. She even likes to do the emotional blackmail of horses about to get on the slaughter truck in order to motivate her donors.
I could probably post several pages about all that is wrong at Starlight Sanctuary, but I think you all get the point. There are many dogs involved in this case as well (http://www.youtube.com/embed/xh0GgU21h2o?autoplay=1)This is NOT rescue and it is not helping. If anything, this is hurting every single good rescue out there and the anti-slaughter movement. Already Douchebag Duquette has latched onto this mess. He neglects to mention that most of us antis are every bit, if not more disgusted. He also doesn’t realize that the spectre of slaughter and living in such close proximity to a slaughter feedlot may well have been what pushed Laura Bell over the edge into hoarding. It doesn’t excuse it. Clearly, Laura Bell has lost the plot. As evidenced by the posted text conversation, she was offered real and substantial help without this going public and refused. She is unable to see that pain and suffering she is inflicting on the animals in her care. One only needs to look at the videos linked below to see the deplorable conditions of her entire sanctuary to know that this is a person that is in way over her head. So, where do we go from here? It seems the situation is being addressed. I will leave you with the words of HiCaliber rescue who is leading the intervention at Starlight. I will try to keep you updated as new information comes to light.
“I know you’re feeling hopeless. I know you’re watching the clock. But we have to trust the authorities for now. We have no other option. I cannot give out much information, but I can tell you behind the scenes things are happening. I know you want to call the DA and the County and express your anger at a lack of action, but they ARE working on this. They are hearing us. They are accepting our help, evidence and testimony. A case this big takes time. They are watching the animals daily, making sure needs are being met. All eyes are on them. They are very aware.
I know you mean well, but please stop calling the DA for right now. Let them focus. Let them work. Let them investigate. We don’t want them to waste their time and resources assuring us that they are doing their job. I can tell you. THEY ARE. It’s better to build a solid case that takes a little longer, than a messy case that won’t fly in court. Think big picture. Think about how much information the authorities have to sift through, how many lies they have to disprove, how many horses they have to identify. We have had a year to absorb all of the details, learn the key players and find out “who’s who.” Let’s let them focus, offer help where they need it and continue to support their efforts. They are obviously taking this very seriously.
Please stop calling the vets, stop harassing Laura, and stop being bullies. She needs help as much as these horses do. Let’s stop gossiping, stop splitting hairs and stop worrying about the things that haven’t happened yet. Stay positive. Don’t let the ugliness get to you. Don’t let the ugliness become you.”