FARMINGTON — The public responded passionately to the case of a horse with a halter embedded in its face. Almost 150 comments were left on ksl.com the day the story broke, and Davis County animal control was flooded with calls, some offering to buy the horse.
Fortunately, the animal has finally received the veterinary care it so badly needs. As of about 3 p.m. Tuesday, the horse was getting treatment. The owner has been cited for failure to give adequate care and causing pain and suffering.
The horse was first noticed by Patti and Brett Bass, who were out on a bike ride Saturday morning. They saw that the halter on the horse had dug deeply into the animal and that it was behaving like it was in pain.
"Basically the horse has matured in a halter that's really solid, and it's just deformed its face," Bass said Monday. "The flesh has grown through it. You couldn't pull it off if you wanted to."
Bass contacted animal control and an officer was sent to the pasture near 1525 West and 675 North to investigate.
The officer determined that while the injuries were severe, they were not immediately life-threatening, according to Davis County Animal Care and Control Director Clint Thacker. The officer decided that the owner would have five days to get the animal to a vet and Thacker agreed.
However, both the public and the Humane Society of Utah expressed concern that the horse was not required to have immediate treatment. Some criticized the animal control office's supposed "five-day" policy preventing them from taking immediate action. But Thacker said that no such policy exists and officers have discretion to give immediate citations or immediately impound animals.
"We do not have a five day holding policy or a five day policy to wait," Thacker said. "Our officers will go out and our officers will assess the situation, but there is no policy at all to say that we wait five days. That was a time frame that was given to the owner by the officer to get these things fixed."
Thacker said they wanted to work with the owner in this case. There was no known history of abuse, and impounding an animal is expensive for the county and often means the animal has to be auctioned off. He stressed, however, that officers handle differently those people who have abused or neglected in the past.
"We do have some individuals in Davis County, unfortunately, who do have a history of livestock abuse, and we have a zero tolerance policy for them when going out," he said. Their animals may be impounded immediately and they may be given a citation then and there, if officers deem it's necessary.
In the case of the Farmington horse, Thacker said that his office has been in constant contact with the owner, following up to make sure the animal was given care as soon as possible. He also said that they intend to follow up over the long term to make sure the owner does not neglect the horse. While they don't give set times for visits, which helps prevent owners from putting on a show, officers do show up from time to time.
"We like to do surprise inspections and we'll do it as long as it takes until the veterinarian says the horse has a clean bill of health," Thacker said.
Carl Arky with the Humane society of Utah said he was happy the animal got treatment and commended Davis County animal control for handling the case effectively.
"That's great. I applaud them. I'm glad to hear that they took action, they moved quickly and expedited this and got some treatment for the animal."
Thacker said the Bass family did exactly what they were supposed to do by informing animal control and was "very, very glad" they called, saying his office would never have known about the case without them.