Horses in poor condition removed from fairgrounds
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POCATELLO — After 15 horses and a mule were found in poor condition at the Bannock County Fairgrounds last week, county officials are reviewing policies and procedures for the facility to ensure that a similar incident doesn’t happen in the future.
The horses were being boarded at the end of shed row by two independent trainers. The sheriff’s office is investigating the incident, but charges have not yet been filed against the trainers and their names have not been released.
By Friday afternoon, all the animals had been removed from the fairgrounds.
The last two remaining horses belonged to the trainers and officials were able to contact the owner of the mule, who picked up the animal.
Bannock County Public Works Director Dan Copeland said once the investigation is complete, the county will decide if changes are called for at the fairgrounds.
“We want to have all the facts in the case in order to make an informed decision,” Copeland said. “I think we need to see where the investigation takes us.”
Copeland said some of the solutions being discussed include adding a full-time worker to monitor shed row. But he said that adding an employee will raise costs at the venue.
Currently, horse owners and trainers pay $40 a month for a one-horse stall.
One of the horse’s owners was alerted to conditions at the stables by a craigslist.com post, with photos depicting the dire conditions of the animals, and she notified the sheriff’s office.
Facility Manager Aaron Greenwell said county workers drive through shed row daily.
The row of stalls where the animals were being held is at the east end of shed row facing the race track.
Trailers full of hay and piles of bedding can be seen in all the other rows of stalls, but at row of stables where the animals were located, only an old ambulance is on site.
About 20 bales of moldy hay were being kept inside a stall.
The Journal talked to a number of trainers at shed row Saturday. While no one was willing to go on record, most said they were unaware of the horses or their condition, and said they rarely saw the two trainers.
The craigslist.com posts said the top gates of the stalls were sometimes not opened for days, and it’s possible that county workers didn’t know they were occupied.
Greenwell walked the mule out of its stall Friday. He brushed him and fed him good hay from his own supply, while attempts were made to contact its owner.
“We found out that the mule had only been there for four days,” Greenwell said.
Bannock County Commissioner Steve Hadley said the individuals that rented the stalls are responsible for the care of the animals, not the county.
“When you rent a house, you don’t go back and check on it every day,” Hadley said. “It’s up to the renters.”
Dave Packer and Evan Frasure, two Republicans challenging Hadley for his seat in District 1, also weighed in on the case Saturday.
Packer agreed that the owners subcontracted with the trainers to care for their animals. So ultimately the trainers are responsible for the animals. But Packer believes the facility needs to be more closely monitored by the county.
He suggested partnering with the Portneuf Animal Welfare Society or the local Humane Society to help patrol shed row.
Packer also said trainers doing business at the county facility need to be scrutinized more closely.
Frasure said he believes that the trainers should be held accountable, but he said the incident should not have happened at the county-operated facility.
“We need to be more aware of what’s going on at the fairgrounds,” Frasure said.
Along with Frasure and Packer, Hadley will face Republican challenger Dennis Spencer in the May 17 primary. The winner of that race will contend for the commission seat with Democrat Roger Hernandez in the general election during November.
Bannock County Prosecutor Steve Herzog said he’ll review the results of the ongoing investigation when it’s complete, along with reports from veterinarians, to determine if criminal charges are appropriate in the case.
This article was originally published in the Idaho State Journal. It is used here with permission.