Sixteen horses were seized out of a posh community in unincorporated Riverside County Thursday morning after a nearly yearlong animal cruelty investigation.
The horses, all Thoroughbreds of various ages, were seized by Riverside County Animal Services from 19870 Hitt Lane in the community of La Cresta, northwest of Temecula.
According to Dr. Allan Drusys, Riverside County chief veterinarian, many of the horses were malnourished.
“Twelve to 13 of the horses are very much underweight,” Dr. Drusys said, noting that the property owner had been prescribed a veterinary treatment plan.
“She has failed to live up to her side,” Dr. Drusys said.
Janice Deutsch, 46, owns the multi-acre Spanish-style equestrian property on Hitt Lane and explained that she is the registered owner of half the horses that were seized; the other animals, she said, are owned by boarders.
Deutsch, who shares the residence with her 85-year-old mother, admitted that some of the equines under her care are too skinny, but contended that her property fell victim to a disease outbreak earlier this year that caused the weight loss.
“We had strangles here,” she said. “Some of the horses dropped weight because of it and are too skinny, but we have been working to get them back up.
Strangles is a bacterial infection that affects a horse’s respiratory system.
According to Sgt. Lesley Huennekens of Riverside County Animal Services, there was no report of a strangles outbreak on Duetsch’s property.
During Thursday’s seizure, most of the horses on the property were given a body score by Dr. Drusys of between Grade 2 and Grade 4. The grade system is used by equine veterinarians to assess a horse’s body weight. According to Dr. Drusys, a healthy horse is typically a Grade 3.
Deutsch said her primary care veterinarian prescribed a straight alfalfa hay diet for the thin animals. However, Deutsch said she didn’t feel an all-alfalfa diet was appropriate, citing that she believed it would make her horses sick.
Money was not the issue, Deutsch said of costly hay prices. “We just needed the time to get the animals healthy.”
Norm Lindsay, who boards a horse on Deutsch’s property, was concerned about how he would get his animal back.
“I can’t get any information,” he said.
Lindsay said he felt many of the horses on Deutsch’s property were too thin, but said it was due to “ignorance.”
“She didn’t feed them enough calories,” he said flatly. “But she’s doing what they told her to do. This [the seizure] is not a horse rescue, it’s a horse rip-off.”
But Deutsch said she is not new to the horse world, having experience as a racehorse trainer.
“I was at Pomona Fairgrounds and Hollywood Park,” she said, but admitted that her trainer’s license was revoked because of her failure to pay fees that were due.
According to John Welsh, public information officer for Riverside County Animal Services, Deutsch was given ample time to get the animals healthy.
“She has not been cooperating,” he said. “This investigation has been ongoing for nearly a year.”
Welsh said the seized horses will be relocated to a ranch in unincorporated Riverside County, near Hemet. In the meantime, Riverside County Animal Services will file animal cruelty charges with the district attorney’s office.
If, through the courts, the horses become county property, they will be adopted out, Welsh said.
“We would go out of our way to adopt them out,” Dr. Drusys said.