On Thursday, Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS) was ordered to return 24 full-size horses, 8 miniature horses, 5 full-size cows, and 3 miniature cows, seized from a Southwest Spokane County ranch during a search warrant execution on February 10th and 11th.
In the original news release, SCRAPS described the living conditions for the animals as "deplorable" and added that the animal's bodies "bear the consequences of prolonged neglect." The family who owns that ranch reached out to KHQ ahead of the court hearing to say that they believed SCRAPS was acting on a malicious tip, and did not fully investigate the circumstances of their ranch or where the tip came from. They say SCRAPS simply showed up and took their animals. SCRAPS says they were investigating charges of Animal Cruelty, Transporting or Confining Animals in an Unsafe Manner and operating an illegal commercial kennel.
The family denied all of these charges, and contacted KHQ with a video they say shows SCRAPS employees mistreating their animals during the raid investigation. The video shows men and women throwing a pan, a rock and a wooden board at one of the cows, hitting it in the head. KHQ contacted SCRAPS about that video and they say if the animals were mistreated it was not by a SCRAPS employee, and their officers at the ranch during the investigation, did not observe any mistreatment of the animals.
In Thursday's court hearing-- which was an appeal by the family to get the animals back-- the prosecutor and defense attorney agreed there was no reason the animals shouldn't be returned to the family. The animals had been kept for the past two weeks at the Spokane County Fairgrounds and the family planned to pick them up at 10am on Friday.
When they arrived Friday morning to get their animals, they discovered that one of the horses had died overnight, while being in SCRAPS care. The family believes that the horse, Melvin was too big for the stable it was put into. They also say they believe Melvin was fed alfalfa. According to several veterinary sites, alfalfa could lead to a horse developing colic, and the family believes that may be what happened in this case. KHQ saw several trail-cams that would have caught some of what happened to the horse, but according to the family's attorney, the cameras weren't turned on until late Friday morning.
KHQ reached out to SCRAPS and received a response at 4:07 p.m., addressing the situation as well as the video showing the apparent SCRAPS employee mistreating animals during the raid. Their response is outlined below:
"As an initial matter, SCRAPS cannot comment on or authenticate the video, which again appears to be heavily edited. We can confirm that non-employee volunteers were recruited from SCRAPS’ network of committed individuals who provide their time and talent when called upon. We want to again extend our deepest gratitude to the skilled and diligent Animal Protection Officers, as well as the non-employee volunteers, who spent hours on scene in below-freezing temperatures, to safely secure the livestock at issue. The living conditions of these animals were deplorable, and their bodies bear the consequences of prolonged neglect. However, a valid court order required SCRAPS to return the animals to their legal owners. We are disappointed in the decision, but we will follow the law. SCRAPS is consulting with its legal counsel to determine the next appropriate steps. We can assure the community that we will continue to do everything in our power, within the law, to protect and advocate for these animals."
SCRAPS also sent KHQ reporter Alex Peebles another statement regarding the death of the horse:
"Yesterday evening, while feeding and cleaning, SCRAPS employees heard a commotion in one of the horse stalls. Quickly realizing Melvin was in trouble, SCRAPS called in two veterinarians. For more than five hours, the two veterinarians, along with SCRAPS employees, worked diligently to save Melvin’s life. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, by approximately 1am, Melvin’s condition had deteriorated to the point that euthanizing him was the only humane thing to do."
There were three protesters at the Fairgrounds who said that the animals should have been seized and weren't safe with the family. They say the horse that died in SCRAPS' care would have died anyway, though they were unwilling to provide any evidence to back that up.
This story is ongoing and we will continue to post updates as we receive more information.