Antonia Acevedo 18 horses seized

Las Lomas, CA

Santa Cruz County

October 29, 2004

(Photo courtesy of Vern Fisher, the Monterey Herald) 18 emaciated horses were seized by the SPCA from Acevedo, age 50, where, officials said, they had been eating dirt and fighting over little food supplies. Acevedo has been struggling with financial and health issues for some time.  The SPCA was called in because the electricity had been shut off and a worker reported that the horses were getting no water because the pump could not operate.

Eight mares and a colt are being held at the SPCA facility on the Monterey-Salinas Highway. Three stallions and five foals are at the Steinbeck Country Equine Clinic in Salinas. The animals are recovering while the SPCA investigates.  The horses prior to the seizure had eaten every bit of grass on the property.

"The property was perhaps the most denuded of edible vegetation that I've seen in a horse case," said SPCA Executive Director Gary Tiscomia. "I've been in this business for 25 years and I don't recall ever having seen horses graze a property this thoroughly."

(Dr. Matern and Rudy, Photo courtesy of Vern Fisher, the Monterey Herald) Lisa Hoefler, the SPCA's director of operations, said the first animal she saw couldn't get up. The animal's bones were protruding and it had sores from lying on its side. That horse, Rudy, was sent to the Steinbeck clinic.  "We haven't seen a horse this skinny before," said veterinarian Erin Matern of the Salinas clinic.

About 3 weeks after arriving at the Steinbeck Country Equine Clinic in Salinas, Rudy is doing "really, really well," Matern reported. He has finally been able to stand up on his own and it may take weeks or months for him to build back muscle mass; he's eating a regular diet and gaining weight, she said.

The rest of the horses are generally in better condition but are suffering from malnourishment and other symptoms, including compacted sand in their intestines from having eaten dirt. More extensive medical tests are pending.

The SPCA initially made an agreement with the owner to work together to provide adequate food and water for the 17 remaining animals. The agency took food and water to the property regularly for two weeks before deciding to remove the horses.  "Every time that we went out there, the things that she was saying were going to happen weren't happening," Hoefler said.  "Ultimately, we were aware that she was simply not able to provide adequate care," commented Tiscomia.

No criminal charges have been filed but the case remains under investigation jointly by the SPCA and the Monterey County District Attorney's Office.

Acevedo, a physician's assistant at a Watsonville health agency, said she had raised most of the horses from birth on her property and used to ride them for pleasure. She said she has been having financial troubles and suffers from mental health problems that have affected her ability to care for the animals. However, she said, she feels the SPCA misrepresented its intentions when it said it would work with her. She is planning to write a letter of complaint.

"I know everybody has hard times, you know, but it's not fair to assume that people aren't doing the best they can to remedy the situation," said Acevedo.

Hoefler said this was the largest group of neglected horses she has seen in her 24 years at the agency. The SPCA normally sees one or two neglected horsed cases every couple of years.

The SPCA is looking for donations to help with the medical care and for volunteers to work with them. The SPCA phone number is 408-373-2631. The Steinbeck Country Equine Clinic is located at 15881 Toro Hills Ave, Salinas, CA 93908, telephone # 831-455-1808.

Update 5/31/05:

Lisa Hoefler writes:  the horses are doing very well, including the one that was near death when the SPCA arrived on the property.  The horse is now known as Rudy and has been adopted into a wonderful home along with another of the seized horses.  7 of the 18 horses have been adopted, 7 are in the process of being adopted (pending property inspections by our humane officers and demonstration of equine care and handling abilities by the adopter.  4 remain here and are still available for adoption.  When the horses were seized 4 of the mares were pregnant.  3 have since foaled at the SPCA.  In order to adopt these horses, adopters must guarantee lifelong homes for these horses and the mares must be adopted with their foals, and they must remain together.


The Monterey Herald