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Searsport horses left to perish by state

Published: 2/16/2010
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By Maddy B. Gray

[Even if you're not a Mainer, your voice can still be heard. See below for details.]

Janet Tuttle sent these photos from a case in Searsport, Maine, in May, 2004. In that case, as in many others, equine rescue groups pleaded with the Animal Welfare director Norma Worley to intervene and let them take the horses.

In the bottom photo, a neglected mare stands next to the carcass of her dead foal.

Tuttle runs the award-winning Rockin' T Equine Rescue in Lisbon Falls.

She recalls:

People started emailing me. They were begging me to do something.
We contacted the state and they wouldn't do anything about it. It was horrible.
State vet Dr. Christine Fraser said there was adequate water supply and there were lush pastures. She said she saw nothing wrong.
Everybody was very upset.
The photo below is of a mare and her dead foal.
About three dozen horses were not allowed to be taken from the farm by rescue agencies, including the Rockin' T and the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals. As far as she knows, they all perished.

More details to follow.





Please consider contacting elected officials and media outlets to encourage more coverage of the story of Animal Welfare complacency and equine abuse in Maine

Not a Mainer? Who cares?
Pro-active voices and statements of concern have no boundaries.

Phone numbers:

Evert Fowle, DA for Kennebec and Somerset counties: 207 623-1156
Governor Baldacci’s office 207 287-3531

Media currently following the story:
Adrienne Bennett, reporter WABI, Bangor, abennett@wabi.tv
Maine Public Broadcasting
's News and Public Affairs director, Keith Shortall, kshortall@mpbn.net

Read Maine Public Broadcasting Network's story by clicking here
Click here for Channel 5 story brief
Click here for original story
To read weekend story, click here
To read the complaint sent last week to Animal Welfare, click here.
To read about Creepy, click here.
To read about Paula, click here.
To read Tony LaPore’s conversation with NickerNews click here
Click here to offer help, take survey and receive updates
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View Reader Comments:

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2/16/2010 Jan
It seems as though the saga continues ... different horses/location .. same sad story!
2/16/2010 Becky
The Searsport case dragged on for many years. In the end I was told that the last 7 or 8 horses were surrendered, but sadly I don't know if that is true or not!
2/17/2010 Darlene
Why do we keep voteing NORMA WARLEY in..if she's not doing her job, she dont need to be there,, kinda looks to me that she likes the money more then the well being of the equine,,
2/17/2010 Anne Wight
Maddy, I believe the names of these abusers should be included in your blog. Do we know that they are not continuing to own and abuse more horses even now?
2/17/2010 Lisa
I helped with this case and let me tell you it's the worse one I've seen. Even these horrible pictures don't tell the whole story. The state did nothing except try to keep us out of there!! Please people don't let this horses in Clinton end up the same way. The more voices we have the more power we have.
2/17/2010 Jan
Norma Worley is appointed by the Governor... it's not an elected position.
2/17/2010 Jen
We offered to take in some of these horses at our rescue as well but were never called upon. Dealing with the sad aftermath and long rehabilitation of horses that have endured horrible abuse and neglect is heartbreaking enough without the added frustration of the apathy and complacency from our state officials who are charged with enforcing humane law. BTW, Norma Worley does not get elected, she's a hired position. Her boss, Commissioner Seth Bradstreet (Dept. of Ag) is also not elected, he's appointed by the governor.
2/17/2010 Joy
This is just awful. Maine needs someone with a little bit of horse sense at the head of our Animal Welfare Agency. Time to make MORE noise guys!
2/17/2010 Louise
I think that Norma Worley, and Animal Welfare are being sadly criticised for the good work that they do. Please remember that they are hamstringed by their budget. I can't think of people more aware and caring of animals than they are. If they didn't care so much I'm sure they would be working at other jobs where they could make lots more money. They also have to abide by our state laws where statutes are written to protect the innocent and sometimes those who aren't innocent. The job they face in education, preservation of the animals and due process of the law is daunting. If you really want to help, find a way to get more funding for Animal Welfare so that they can seize abused animals and take care of them.
2/17/2010 Joy
I agree that they have a difficult job vs. the funding that they have to work with BUT you have to have a desire to rescue animals too and more often than not you'll find a way...I just don't think this is the case here. Fining people like this for not being within the guidelines of the State of Maine laws would bring a lot of money in to the animal welfare program. It could happen EVERYDAY if someone were on top of it.
2/17/2010 Michelle
Im am sorry, But Norma Worly and Animal welfare are NOT HAM STRINGED By their budget on this case.. Every one of the horses on this property right now can be placed into foster care with licensed rescue facilities right this very moment. This would in no way cut into this strained budget of Norma's ... The rescue facilities have made the offers and at their own expense and knowing that if the accused were found to be innocent the animals would have to be returned.. No NO NORMA does not have tied hands unless she tied her own up.. But the rescue facilities have extend their hands and Normna is not reaching back..
2/17/2010 Kathy
Hello everyone Thank you Janet Tuttle for bringing more awareness to the readers regarding the issues that occur currently within our state system. The posted photos (as well as your story) will pull at the hearts of animal lovers and will most likely cause many to have troubled thoughts and perhaps sleepless nights. Awareness... This is what it takes to rally people together to make change happen. People can rally and accomplish change but the road is often long and hard. I have seen other causes fall by the wayside because people become afraid of repercussions for speaking out and/or disheartened by long battles that can appear hopeless. Because of the complexity and the length of time that it takes to enforce, change or add new laws that protect those who are in need or suffering (animals or humans) one can become discouraged, lose faith, lose strength and perhaps even the will to continue on with the cause. Oftentimes, the initial numbers of people that began the struggle for change will diminish, despite all good intentions and efforts. One may become disheartened, lose hope, trust and perhaps, even doubt the human race in its worthiness to be the caregivers of this earth. If our system is broken, it has to be fixed. It will take large numbers of people to stand long and hard, side by side to educate themselves and others on how to work within the current system, its legal guidelines, to ensure that changes do happen. From an internship experience working at a congressional office a few years ago, I learned that reactions happen quickly when people mass together and call in on the same day ( to protest, to request action or change). When people appear in mass numbers at and around those offices in a respectful, courteous manner without causing an unruly disturbance (the more professional the better folks) it produces results. By submiting short information sheets and signed petitions by the citizens for the office to review etc. it will create a reaction from the officials to do something. Massive numbers of people, rallying in large groups, making phone calls on the same day or days,to state officials (as well as to our government elected officials) causes them to really pay attention as it makes it difficult to get the regular work done.(Trust me, I know from that experience) If planning to go into the state official offices, it is a courtesy to the agency to let them know that people will be coming in and to let them know what the issue is about. I recommend the following : Go into the state official agency offices and not to an individual's home or business site (even if one is protesting a particular farm or establishment.) Try to to avoid legal hassles/liabilities etc. I am no lawyer and this is merely a suggestion. Let the officials realize how serious the public is - such as in the animal welfare issues going on curently, have the group reiterate that they want the state to ensure the laws will be enforced,in a timely manner, when documented evidence is before them that allows them to act. I would also encourage that the local television, news media, radio stations etc. be alerted that there will be a rally of people if that occurred. I cannot stress enough that keeping emotions controlled and acting professionally and respectfully when presenting oneself is of the utmost importance. It brings more credibility to the cause and to those involved. Also, by using such a strategy and going in such a manner, more people might be willing to join in on the efforts. I would think that the level of community involvement would also increase especially, if it was going to impress upon our officials that we want the current animal protection laws to be enforced without using specific cases and names until asked. It is important to request that all people will have to answer to the laws irregardless of the numbers of animals involved in the cases that come before the state. Furthermore, insist that no animal is to be ignored or favored above others regarding aid or assistance (despite the cost involved). We know that the large animals cost a lot more to care for, so this is important to include especially, when some people are stating that this appears to be a factor for not seizing horses in a timely manner when documentation is before them that requires them to do so by current law. This brings me to the conclusion of my writing. It is a sad thing to have to say, but many animals are commodities in this world being raised and sold for sometimes great amounts of profit and then often discarded or ending up in unfortunate circumstances that results in intolerable suffering. It is said that humans are the smartest of the living species on this planet and yet, look at all the damage and the evil that has occurred while under the reign of the human race. If it wasn't for the wonderful every day occurrences that I see each day, I would doubt that compassionate and kind people exist. This planet is full of wonderful, good and decent individuals yet, the media often focuses on the negative and sensational stories because of the market and these type of stories bring in great profits. Yes, sadly, the greed for wealth seems to overtake many human hearts. Once again, Thank you Janet Tuttle for your courage and your efforts as well as everyone else who wants to see changes made for the welfare of the animals. Their unheard voices and the suffering that exists is reaching out now to the hearts of many though your voices and some are in great need for us to join the cause and stand up for them. I will be ready and willing to join this cause with others in trying to make this state, this country and this world see that there is a better way and a more humane way to be in regards to how we treat one another and also, the animals that co-exist with us. I will join the peaceful efforts and the right movement groups that are willing to take this on and will help in bringing attention to the doors of our legislature and officials. And I conclude by saying...."Let's go everyone!" Respectfully, Kathy Carpenter
2/17/2010 Val
I am the director of a library. It is part of my job to put together a budget and present it to my immediate supervisors. As part of that process, I need to justify my requests for funding. I need to compile statistics and do some research into how much funding I need to accomplish the goals of the institution. Norma holds the same kind of role. She has to present and justify a budget that will meet the stated goals of the institution for whom she works. Hers is a political appointment and requires political savvy to convince the legislature and governor that investing in her department is important and worthy of funding-by whatever means she finds necessary. Maybe the legislative branch as a whole needs to be educated on matters of animal abuse and neglect in our State. Hers cannot be a passive office in which the AWP runs on whatever the legislature decides to toss its way. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and in this case, it appears that the wheel is not squeaking enough.
2/17/2010 Shannon
I'm sorry Louise, is Norma's salary of $100K not "lots more money" to you? That's an awful lot of money to me! How about her salary gets cut and the difference funds Animal Welfare? While I realize that any government agency faces budget restrictions and red tape, allowing horses to suffer to death shows, in my humble opinion, that they are NOT doing their job. Are these "aware" and "caring" people AWARE that their agency is failing miserably to do their job and CARING enough to try to make a difference? Who better to influence the statutes than the people in the government?? I continue to be disgusted...
2/17/2010 Catherine
I just watched the channel 5 story from 2/15. True, some of the horses appear to be in good condition, but the condition of the property is appalling. Note the poor condition of the fencing, much of it thin wire, and the hazardous items left where horses can get to them (an excavator, and the windows left leaning against a building). Also, at about the 1 min. 10 second mark, watch the person kick the horse!
2/17/2010 Janet Tuttle
This is what i think should happen. ok ready i think the deering building needs a enema to flush the crap out of there.if you do not agree with me do not read this, sorry if you do not like this but i am entitled to my opinon. JANET TUTTLE
2/18/2010 Becky
Kathy, Thank you for a well written, well thought out statement. I do beieve anger and loose words are only going to slow our efforts! Please people, limit you ranting to facts, please anyone that has any info, save it. I had tons of stuff and felt like I would never get anywhere and tossed lots of it away. Yesterday I started a new folder and promised myself no matter how angry I get I will just put it away until I can regroup and stand tall again. I truly think the heros are limited but those that have stood tall all these years are some amazing people. How they do it, day in and day out, is beyond me. I pray that I can find the strenght to stand tall and endure this long trip we are about to embark on.
2/19/2010 paula
The only thing I can say about the horse abuse scandal is...this "what in the heck are people thinking and doing"! At least it is not freezing cold out.
2/26/2010 Marie
What I find amazing is that this is real abuse; however, when someone anonymously reported that my horse was starving to death the yellow tag was on the door immediately. They made an appointment and were shocked to see the records that I keep, vet visits, lots of hay, feed and two pages of typed names and addresses of people that could vouch for me not to mention two vets. .not starving that's for sure. If they can come down on me I wonder what is stopping them from doing something about the real abuse that is going on? ... none of my animals look like the ones from the Clinton/Searsport farms. It seems that the reports to the state where real abuse is happening don't get the kind of response that I received. Maybe the anonymous caller that reported me is very well connected...maybe I should find out who it was and get them to make the kind of call that they did when they reported me!
2/26/2010 Elaine
The state must have told you what the complaint was against you Marie. You didn't mention it but that's ok. I'm not sure what you are upset about, the state does have to investigate all complaints. It's great you had your papers in order. You should be pleased with that. Congrats for a job well done.
3/4/2010 Debbie
My heart bleeds for these animals. I wish I had a facility to bring them all home.

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