A group of Animal Rights activists in Vermont are seeking to push through legislation that would speed up the processof seizing abused animals from their owners. According to the proposal, lawmakers would impose a six-week limit between the time the animals are taken into custody and holding a civil forfeiture hearing. Under state law, rescue groups can’t find permanent homes for seized animals until the civil forfeiture procedure is complete and the law doesn’t specify how quickly that must take place. Currently it can take months or even years between the time the animals are seized and when a court can determine whether they can be placed in new homes. In the meantime, there are no provisions for funding for their care during the waiting period.
‘‘It is not fair for an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization to pay for animals that were poorly treated,’’ said Joanne Bourbeau, Northeast regional director for the Humane Society of the United States.
In addition, the new billl would also require animal owners to post bonds within 72 hours of the seizure for the care of the animals and allow animal rescue groups to draw from that money.
‘‘The whole world is watching Vermont to see how we handle this,’’ said Becky Williams of Stowe, a veterinary assistant, who circulated a petition that was given to state officials Thursday with more than 1,400 signatures.
Back in January, WPTZ-TV reported that Spring Hill Horse Rescue seized three horses left in dark, cramped and filthy conditions at a farm in Shelburne, VT owned by George Wilson, a longtime former noon news anchor for WCAX-TV in South Burlington,.
“The stallion, Willy and two mares, Dolly and Lolly, had been locked in dark stalls for so many years, that they had almost gone blind,” commented Gina Brown of Spring Hill. "They're very scared. They're very panicky," They don't seem to have had any human contact."
The group also reported that the horses were standing on feet of built-up manure, that they were infested with lice, had rotten teeth, and untrimmed hooves that made it hard for them to stand.”
They also alleged the barn was full of horse skeletons.
Wilson is also a breeder of Arabian horses. He retired the public eye in the late 1990s and assumed a newsroom management position, but has not been associated with WCAX-TV since March of 2006, according to his LinkedIn profile. He later left broadcasting for a position as an assistant manager at a Walmart store in Williston, Vt., which ended two years ago. Wilson now describes himself as a "media and political consultant."
He has vigorously denies the allegations that he mistreated the horses and called the story "one-sided" and "a media circus." Meanwhile, T.J. Donovan, the elected state's attorney for Chittenden County said the case remains under investigation.