A California horse auction owner faces felony animal cruelty charges after more than two dozen horses were found near-death or dead on his ranch. A warrant for the arrest of the Yuba County rancher Joe Cardenas was issued late last week. According to the local newspaper, the Appeal-Democrat, Cardenas said someone dropped off the ill horses at his ranch in very poor condition in August.
The probable cause court filing states that animal control officers were at Joe Cardenas’ ranch on May 13 and found at least two horses that were so underweight that the spine, ribs, and hips were clearly visible. The rancher said he took the horses in from a ranch in nearby Sutter County in March. The animal control officers maintain that photos of the horses before they left their former home and the condition in which they were found on the Cardenas’ ranch show a deep decline in health.
The Yuba County District Attorney’s officer reportedly received dozens of phone calls and emails from concerned residents and horse lovers from outside of the region after a local horse shelter became involved in the case. District Attorney Patrick McGrath said his office would be making decisions on the felony charges based not on political pressure but on evidence.
The Horse Plus Humane Society issued a statement about rescuing 23 horses from the ranch owned by Joe Cardenas, on its website.
“We need your help! We just rescued 23 horses from a hoarding situation. The horses feed bill is astronomical, not to mention the vet care, gelding operations, etc. Please donate right now and help us cover these emergency rescue costs. We couldn’t say ‘No’ to these horses, and we stepped out in faith, trusting that your heart will be touched by these horses in need.”
The statement goes on to say that the horse organization traveled to the ranch, which is about 45 minutes away, after being informed that a number of dead horses were present on the property. The volunteers were also reportedly informed that some horses still alive were “very skinny.” The group then put together a video from footage showing the ranch which was obtained from concerned citizens and released it on YouTube to inform others about the case and encourage them to contact the local district attorney.
A man identified only as a “retired kill buyer” reportedly called the group and said the rancher had to get rid of some of the horses and had even allegedly talked about just shooting the animals. The horse organization drafted a bill of sale and traveled to the ranch in hopes of preventing the animals from being shot or being transported to a slaughter auction. The group is still accepting donations to help with the vet care and feeding of the rescued horses.