March 2014 Issue - page 1

LANC., PA 17604
Vol. 21 No.3
Our 21st Year
March 2014
by Amy Worden
When Amy Kaunas opens
the stall door, a petite black mare
stretches out her nose to greet
her, leaning in for a good neck
scratch. Kaunas, the executive
director of the Humane Society
of Harrisburg Area, obliges,
telling a visitor only months ago
the horse now known as Sioux
would cower in the back of her
stall, terrified of human contact.
“They have such bonds with
people now, for having been
wild,” said Kaunas.
It has been a long road to
rehabilitation for Sioux and
the more than two dozen other
horses, most of them Morgans,
seized from horrendous condi-
tions at a Palmyra, PA farm more
than a year ago.
And their ordeal is not over
In all, 29 horses owned by
Rebecca Roberts were removed
by authorities in separate raids in
late December 2012 and January
2013. First the humane society
removed the five most emaci-
ated horses, one so weak she
had to be carried onto the trailer,
and in the second raid rescuers
removed another 24 horses from
the barren mud pits that served
as their corrals, manure so high it
obscured the fence line.
In April Roberts was found
guilty by a Harrisburg magiste-
rial district justice on 30 counts
of animal cruelty – 29 counts for
each of the living horses and one
charge for a mare on whom vet
care was ordered but was found
dead when they returned. Two
other horses in various states
of decay lay in the storage shed
covered haphazardly with a tarp.
Adding to the heartbreak
over the conditions of the live
horses, said Kaunas, were the
piles of horse bone found in a
neighboring pasture the surviv-
ing horses were unable to access.
Cost of Care Law Came Too Late
Owner of Seized Morgans Appeals; Care Tops $110,000 with No End in Sight
Some of the bones were so small
they clearly belonged to foals, she
The shelter’s law enforcement
officer could not charge Roberts
in connection with the equine
remains because it was not clear
how or when those horses died.
At the hearing, humane soci-
ety police officer Bill Sandstrom
and veterinarians who were on
site, testified about the sick, starv-
ing and injured horses they saw
and showed photographs of the
desperate herd trapped in filthy
paddocks with no food or water.
When it was over, Magisteri-
al District Justice Lowell Witmer
said he was stunned by the im-
ages and the testimony he heard.
He ordered Roberts to pay
$27,638 in restitution to cover
the cost of care of the horses,
forbid her from owning or having
contact with animals for seven
years and five months and issued
a $22,500 fine.
Witmer told Roberts at the
hearing he would not send her to
jail because she obviously needed
psychological help and urged her
lawyer to help her get treatment.
At the time, last April,
Kaunas said the case was “far
from over.” She was right.
Roberts Appeals
Roberts, an attorney and
owner of Shadowland Morgan
Horses and Sport Horses, soon
appealed the ruling to Dauphin
County Court.
Her attorney, Eric Winter,
said in a February, 2014 interview
that Roberts is seeking to have the
decision thrown out on proce-
dural motions, including failure
to follow proper search warrant
Barring that, he said, they
want a new trial.
“The horses weren’t in
perfect shape but they were not
neglected to the level of cruelty,”
said Winter.
Almost a year later, Kaunas
says the Roberts case – the
biggest large animal seizure
they’ve had – is now one of the
costliest animal cruelty cases
in the shelter’s century-long
“It changed the face of the
organization,” she said. “As a
line item the horse care is now
10 percent of our budget. If we
weren’t such a strong organiza-
tion it would have crippled us.”
So far, the cost of caring for
the horses has topped $110,000
and that doesn’t include countless
hours of volunteer – and some
professional -- labor, as well as
roughly $50,000 in donations of
food and supplies.
The shelter even bought a
small farm in Dauphin County
to care for the horses and others
that were in the possession of
Harrisburg Humane – and will
come into the care of the shelter
in the future - because of cruelty
Gentle Giants to the Rescue
For the first six months after
the raid, the burden for caring for
most of the horses fell to Gentle
Giants Draft Horse Rescue in Mt.
Airy, MD.
When rescue founder Chris-
tine Hajek learned that Harris-
burg Humane was conducting a
large seizure and had no place to
put all the horses, she offered to
help move the horses and house
them temporarily at her old facil-
ity even though they were not
draft breeds.
Barns, Arenas & Footing
feature ... pgs. 10 - 24
(Continued on page 31)
Stallion #11, now also known as Sarge, was the most incorrigible of the seven stallions seized from
the Palmyra, PA farm of Rebecca Roberts. He had begun to charge at the staff at Gentle Giants and
reared up on his stall bars when anyone walked by. Euthanasia was considered but instead he was
placed with experienced stallion handlers at Sunset Valley Farm in Union Bridge, MD. He is now “a
puppy dog” in the care of trainer Jessica Millard, pictured.
Credit Christopher Gardner Photography
ommunity effort nets new paralympic horse for
Hart ... pg. 28
Suspect arrested in drive-by killing of buggy
horse ... pg. 9
Perkiomen Creek Pony Club to compete at Rolex ... pg. 7
Fair Hill trained Top Billing emerges as top
Derby prospect ... pg. 4
... and much more!
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