Animal services issues highlighted in Sonoma County after horse mauled by dog

The Sonoma County Animal Services Department faces scrutiny over its responsiveness to animal cruelty complaints and its enforcement of protective measures for animals.

A case involving neglected horses, all purportedly owned by one man, has sparked criticism of the agency's actions.

Critics have been candid in expressing their frustration.

"This was the worst thing I've ever seen. I called and called and called animal control," said a resident at a board of supervisors meeting on Tuesday.

Another said, "This makes three (horses) not two, but three, laying blatantly for everybody to see."


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Horse advocates from Sonoma County voiced their concerns before the Board of Supervisors, demanding improved oversight and staffing for the animal services and control department.

"Animals are suffering and dying because the slots are not filled," said Betsy Bueno, a horse enthusiast, rescuer, and former police officer. Bueno wants to reform and rehabilitate the county's animal services department, to bolster criminal enforcement of animal abuse and neglect cases.

Recalling a recent distressing incident, Bueno recounted witnessing a German Shepherd attacking a horse for nearly an hour, resulting in the horse's death.

"The dog had knocked the horse to the ground and was on top of the horse, basically ripping it apart," the woman said.

Animal services arrived too late to intervene.

The horse's owner had reportedly been warned multiple times about potential hazards, yet no action had been taken.

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Bueno said there were two dead horses that had been abused, concealed beneath a dirt pile.

Despite having resources allocated for 10 animal control officers, the department only has three, according to Bueno.

"If you call, they're supposed to respond just like a police officer," she noted.

Bueno shared an additional incident where she encountered another horse in dire condition, left unattended and seemingly near death in the same area.

She said she confronted the person who controlled the property, and offered them an ultimatum.

"It's either call my vet out right now or I call animal control," Bueno recalled telling the person.

Bueno said her vet confirmed the horse had miscarried and suffered a severe infection, with a high fever of 105 degrees. The horse was euthanized, as was a dog on the property.

The property owner declined to comment on the matter and Sonoma County Animal Services has not yet provided a response.