Starving wild horses rescued from the Three-Strikes Ranch photo/Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue
It all started in 2002 when Jason Maduna and his wife Alissa say they decided to help with the plight of the mustangs. It ended yesterday with a 5-10 year jail sentence for Jason Maduna, who was found guilty of 145 counts of felony animal cruelty.
The Madunas adopted or purchased wild horses from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Their Three-Strikes Ranch, located in a sleepy Nebraska town called Alliance, was truly the last strike for more than 75 wild horses and burros whose carcasses were found strewn over the landscape. Authorities seized 211 horses in April of 2009. Most were starving.
Jill Starr, President of Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue in Lancaster, California, was called to assist in the rescue and placement of the horses that remained. "I had no idea I would find myself submerged in a sea of barely breathing horses" she writes. Starr describes the experience as "... one of the most disturbing and emotionally taxing horse rescue operations I have been involved with."
It is said that Maduna adopted or purchased as many as 250 horses from the BLM. Cindy Wertz, BLM Spokesperson from the Cheyenne, Wyoming District Office, stated in today's telephone interview, "He [Jason Maduna] adopted several BLM horses. The horses that he , actually it was officially his wife that officially adopted the horse, two of them we couldn't track down. One horse we did track down and we removed that one horse that was officially adopted. The other horses were bought through a sale program. Once they're sold, BLM no longer has jurisdiction over the horses. They're private property."
The sale authority clause, added to the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act in 2005 by the highly controversial BurnsAmendmentt, allow the outright sale of horses or burros passed over for adoption three times. Wild horse advocates have since feared for the welfare of animals sold under these terms. Jason Maduna and his Three-Strikes Ranch serve both as a reminder of and justification for those fears. Anissa Maduna testified at trial that the BLM routinely contacted them to accept more horses.
"They're just dumping these horses." said Starr. She cites no restrictions or accountability among many issues with the sale authority. " The BLM shouldn't have any business giving horses to people that don't have a proven track record of being able to provide lifetime sanctuary for wild horses." she continued.
Starr knows a bit about providing sanctuary. Her Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue, a non profit organization, has been highly respected since its formation in 1997. Twenty-four Three-Strikes Ranch wild horses are among about 300 currently in sanctuary at their facility.
In response to Madunas sentence, Starr commented, " He's terribly under-sentenced. 5-10 years for taking as many as 100 lives - even though there were 74 carcasses found, there were more that couldn't be identified as whole carcasses. There were bits and pieces of horses that Humpty Dumpty's army couldn't put them back together." Indeed, the Lifesavers web site describes the scene as, "Dead bodies on top of each other as if they might never be found and no one would know the difference."
The Three-Strikes Ranch was sold to a couple from Oklahoma. Alissa Maduna was cited by the BLM for treating wild horses inhumanely and fined $325. Jason Maduna will not be allowed to own, possesss or reside with animals for 30 years. Although he was sentenced to 5-10 years, Nebraska law requires mandatory release after 5 years. He will be eligible for parole in 20 months.
The BLM continues to sell wild horses outright after three unsuccessfull adoption opportunities. The authority to do so will remain until Congress changes the law.
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